Canadian Manufacturing

Industry association slams Buy America for B.C. ferry terminal

Canadian Institute of Steel Construction said it is "gravely concerned" about use of Buy America for project on B.C. soil

MARKHAM, Ont.—A Canadian steel industry association said it “is gravely concerned” about the Buy America provisions being implemented on a new British Columbia ferry terminal that could be worth as much as US$15 million.

The Buy America rules, which stipulate transportation infrastructure projects on United States soil are built with American-made products, have “for years prevented Canadian firms from competing on public infrastructure projects in the U.S.,” according to the Canadian Institute of Steel Construction (CISC), and could soon have an impact on the Prince Rupert Ferry Terminal slated for construction in B.C.

A new ferry terminal was part of a 50-year lease signed in 2013 between the Prince Rupert Port Authority and the Alaska Department of Highways, which operates the ferry between Prince Rupert and Alaska.

A spokesperson from the Alaska Marine Highway System, which is part of the state’s Department of Transportation, told The Canadian Press the new terminal must comply with the Buy America rules because the funding comes from the U.S. Federal Highway Administration.

Under the rules applied to the terminal tender, all iron and steel products used for construction must be manufactured in the U.S., which “completely shuts out Canadian firms from bidding,” according to the CISC.

“This severely undermines the ability of Canadian steel firms to supply to their own domestic market, and makes a mockery of the very spirit of free trade and all our formal agreements such as (the North American Free Trade Agreement) NAFTA,” CISC president Ed Whalen said in a statement.

The CISC claims that Canada is facing a deficit of more than $600 million for structural steel and related products due to what the organization claims is a “lack of reciprocal arrangements with its trading partners.”

The organization said Buy America “was a significant factor” in the trade imbalance.

“This creates a domino effect that cascades down our entire supply chain, negatively affecting investment and growth, stifling innovation, and ultimately causing job losses across a wide spectrum of Canada’s manufacturing industries,”CISC marketing and communications director Tareq Ali said.

The CISC is calling on all levels of government to immediately implement a reciprocal agreement in response to “protectionist actions” from trading partners like the U.S.

“Failure to act immediately and decisively poses a great risk to our sector and Canadian manufacturing as a whole, and could have far reaching implications for our economy,” the organization said.

“The time for action is now. We urge our governments to fulfil their responsibility to preserve a free, fair and competitive marketplace in Canada that has been the historical underpinning of our successful economy.”

—With files from The Canadian Press

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