Public Values

"Buy Canadian" better option than binding trade agreements

A joint statement on public procurement and the public good.

We believe that governments have a right and a duty to use public procurement as a tool for economic development, environmental protection and job creation. Therefore, we oppose the expansion of "free trade" deals to encompass more public procurement.

In response to "Buy American" policies, the Government of Canada has announced its desire to expand the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to restrict provincial and municipal procurement. Such a step would abolish the rights of local and provincial governments to support local or Canadian suppliers, set minimum local content rules for materials or services on major projects, adopt ethical and environmental purchasing policies, enforce commitments to hire workers locally, or require companies winning public contracts to reinvest a portion of revenues or profits in Canadian communities.

US federal, state, and local governments have successfully implemented "Buy American" procurement policies for more than 75 years. Today, in the midst of an economic recession, it is perfectly justified that US taxpayer-funded stimulus funding should be used to stimulate local economic development.

Rather than attacking these successful and popular "Buy American" policies, Canadian governments should increase and speed up funding for public infrastructure projects and attach "Buy Canadian" conditions to this funding.

The opportunity exists to recognize integrated industries by negotiating managed trade agreements and sectoral arrangements with the United States. Such arrangements could provide mutual exemptions from procurement preferences for products manufactured in highly integrated industries.

We oppose expanding NAFTA to cover all sub-national procurement and the related effort to negotiate a "free trade" deal with the European Union that would also bind sub-national governments to NAFTA-like restrictions. This approach would drain needed stimulus from the Canadian economy, worsen the current crisis in manufacturing and interfere with provincial and municipal governments' authority to provide and regulate local services.

In closing, we call upon provincial and local governments to reject any federal proposals that would eliminate or restrict their ability to ensure that public procurement policies maximize benefits to the local and Canadian economies.


Alberta Federation of Labour

BC Federation of Labour

Canadian Auto Workers

Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

Canadian Labour Congress

Canadian Union of Public Employees

Council of Canadians

Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec

National Union of Public and General Employees

Northern Territories Federation of Labour

New Brunswick Federation of Labour

Ontario Federation of Labour

Polaris Institute

Saskatchewan Federation of Labour

United Steelworkers

Yukon Federation of Labour

Related individuals, organizations and significant events
For more information on how to support fair trade in your community, contact us at, or 1-800-387-7177.

Links and sources
  A statement on public procurement, Council of Canadians website, August 2009
  Federal government, Premiers have no mandate to renegotiate NAFTA by stealth, says Council of Canadians, August 5 2009

Posted: August 16, 2009

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