Buy Canadian? Wynne threatens to retaliate if Trump imposes ‘Buy American’ policies
“We don’t want to do that, but we will if we have to,” Kathleen Wynne said in an interview in Washington on Thursday.
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WASHINGTON—Premier Kathleen Wynne threatened to impose “similar” trade barriers in Ontario if the U.S. implements the “Buy American” policies favoured by President Donald Trump.
In a Thursday interview in Washington, Wynne said she had told Trump Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross an hour earlier that “we will retaliate if necessary.”
“We don’t want to do that, but we will if we have to,” Wynne said at the Canadian embassy.
“There will be real damage done on both sides of the border if Buy America takes hold in any way across the country. And the expectation of our industry will be that we will act in accordance, and we will put in place similar barriers,” she said.
“And that’s what creates a trade war. And we’re not interested in that, we’ve managed to avoid that, we don’t want to go there, but we are prepared to. It’s what our businesses would expect of us.”
Buy American policies vary. In general terms, they require U.S. governments to use U.S. firms for government projects, shutting out or disadvantaging firms from Canada and other countries.
Wynne’s Liberal government has aggressively challenged Buy American proposals in New York and Texas. Ontario’s lobbying, and threats of retaliation, were widely credited for helping to defeat the New York proposal in April, though the state then approved a narrower measure.
Wynne’s Thursday remarks after her half-hour meeting with Ross were both her broadest and most direct retaliation threats to date. They come as Canadian, American and Mexican negotiators attempt to hammer out a new North American Free Trade Agreement.
Trump has vowed to pursue a “Buy American, Hire American” agenda, and his negotiators are attempting to write Buy American policies into the new NAFTA. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is resisting, saying one of its top NAFTA priorities is keeping government procurement open.
Wynne said Ross simply acknowledged her remarks. They were just talking, she said, not negotiating.
Wynne, making her second trip to Washington in 2017, was also scheduled to meet Thursday with three Republican senators: Iowa’s Chuck Grassley, Montana’s Steve Daines and Maine’s Susan Collins. She was to deliver a lecture at Johns Hopkins University and remarks at an embassy barbecue for members of Congress.
Like Trudeau, she said she is trying to strengthen relationships with state leaders while the mercurial Trump is in office.