Does the Present Buy American Accord By-Pass Popular Opinion Relative to Protectionism

Posted on February 5, 2010


In the October 1st, 2009 Procurement Insights post titled “Buy American Policy: Economic Imperative or Popular Opinion,” I provided an excerpt from my interview with Canada’s Trade Minister Stockwell Day regarding the basis for the Buy American policy.

It was of course the Minister’s expressed belief that popular American opinion surrounding protectionism was the basis for Congressional support of the conditions associated with the stimulus bill that would block Canadian firms from accessing the US government market, versus the existence of legitimate economic imperatives.  In short, the U.S. Congress was yielding to public sentiments.

As I am writing this post I am also listening to the live technical briefing, in which Senior Government Officials are responding to questions from the press pertaining to the just struck accord that now opens the door for Canadian firms to pursue lucrative US stimulus contracts.

While it would appear that the implementation of this agreement will “bypass” the U.S. Congress, I could not help but wonder what if any impact this has from a practical execution standpoint.

Note: This of course is why I love social media, because I was actually given immediate and real-time access to the live briefing session to pose this very question to the Senior Government officials involved in the actual negotiations.  I must admit that hearing the words, here is a question from Jon Hansen representing the PI Social Media Network to be somewhat surreal in that such access has historically been limited to the traditional press – for example CBC Radio had asked a question before mine. Chalk one up for responsible, citizen journalism.

Specifically, I asked the following question; “In my September 30th interview with Minister Day, he had indicated that the Buy American policy was tied more to popular American opinion versus legitimate economic imperatives.  If as alluded to earlier Congress is being bypassed, what impact will this agreement have from a practical execution standpoint?  In other words, it is one thing to say you are going to do something, it is quite another thing to actually do it!”

The response that was given, is that they have generally speaking been getting the word out, but this however is a far cry from an actual plan.

In essence, and given the importance of promoting Canadian firm participation in stimulus driven contracts – especially with the absence of any tangible reference to what this agreement means from a dollar standpoint – one would hope that a solid “marketing/promotion” program was being developed simultaneous to the on-going negotiations which as one reporter stated seemed to take a long time.

This is a critical point, as access is not the same has participation and being awarded an actual contract.

It will be an interesting story from a much broader perspective now that the focus will shift from reaching an accord to promoting the utilization of Canadian-based firms.

Remember to tune into the February 15th “Buy American Special: Open Skies for Canadian Firms?” broadcast between 3:00 and 4:00 PM EST, as we delve deeper into this development with expert author Judy Bradt.

In the meantime, the following is an “electronic reprint” of the October 1st post.

The Honourable Stockwell Day

The Honourable Stockwell Day

Underneath the complexities of the Buy American debate is a simple question . . . now that Canada has closed the Congressional loophole that justified locking Canadian business out of the US market, will the US Congress yield to popular opinion and continue to keep its economic borders closed to its northern neighbor?

Use the following Link to access the 8 Minute Excerpt of my interview with Canadian Trade Minister Stockwell Day.