Cuomo OKs Buy American law; Canada irked

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law on Friday a Buy American procurement program to require the use of American-made structural iron and steel for all state surface road and bridge projects worth more than $1 million.

It’s not sitting too well with neighbors to the north.

The program, which would apply for contracts after April 1, will require certain state agencies to use steel or iron for which the entire manufacturing process occurred in the United States, unless it can be proven that those materials should be exempted (for example, if American materials would unreasonably increase project costs).

Under the law, a workgroup will be formed to consider the feasibility of expanding the program to cover other American-manufactured products.

“Buy American will help us invest directly in our greatest asset, our workforce, to support economic development and job growth for generations to come,” Cuomo said in a statement. “I am proud to sign this legislation to support hardworking men and women, revitalize infrastructure across the state, bolster the strength of our manufacturing industries and cement our status as a global economic leader.”

The idea has drawn the ire of some Canadian officials. The Buffalo News reported in November that Ontario and Quebec were not ruling out taking retaliatory trade measures against the state over this policy.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said in a statement Friday evening that the province is prepared to “respond strongly” to the Buy American law.

“That response could include giving Ontario the ability to restrict its own procurement policies and processes for firms that are located in a U.S. state with discriminatory Buy American policies,” she said.

The Canadian federal government repeated its reservations about a Buy American policy on Friday. Colin Shonk, a spokesman for the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C., said the Canadian business community is concerned, “and New York businesses should be as well, as many rely on Canadian suppliers and cross-border supply chains to make their products.”

“Closing off New York’s procurement market could result in: higher price tags, fewer projects funded, and fewer people hired in New York State,” he said prior to the bill signing, noting that if Buy American became law and applied to Canada, there would be pressure by Canadian businesses to respond.

In May, the Canadian government put out data on iron and steel trade showing that Canada sent $8.5 billion in iron and steel products to the U.S. from 2014 to 2016, with Americans sending $11.7 billion in those materials to Canada.

Canadian concerns will get another day to be heard. The workgroup also is tasked with evaluating reciprocal trade access to other countries that may be significantly harmed by the Buy American program.

In the meantime in New York, Buy American has staunch supporters.

“This is a huge investment in the men and women who build our roads and bridges,” state AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento said in a statement. “This legislation ensures our hard-earned tax dollars are invested right back into our own workforce and not sent overseas.” • 518-454-5449 •@matt_hamilton10

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