Premier Wynne Committed to Maintaining Trade Relationship with Texas
Premier Kathleen Wynne released the following statement today on the legislative progress of Buy American policies in Texas, to extend provisions to virtually all state agencies:
"I am disappointed and concerned that Bill 1289 to extend Buy American provisions to virtually all state agencies is now proceeding to a final review. This discriminatory bill was first passed by the Texas Senate on May 3, followed by the House on May 12. As of today, the bill is going through final deliberations at a committee which includes members of both chambers.
Protectionist actions like those in this bill have the potential to severely hinder our trade partnership and put jobs, workers and businesses both here and in the U.S. at risk.
Our shared economic strength is grounded in our ability to build and maintain partnerships in the U.S. and around the world. Ontario does not take for granted the deep and long-standing trade relationships we have built with our partners across the U.S., and we will continue to expand those ties and also diversify internationally.
Texas is a long-standing trade partner for Ontario, with trade volumes that have grown steadily to over US$12 billion last year. We trade goods that are critical to our tech, automotive and construction sectors, and Canada-Texas trade and investment supports nearly 460,000 jobs in the state. This bill will force suppliers to buy iron and steel only from American sources, which could compromise that growing partnership.
We have been working hard at home and in Texas to counter these efforts. Monique Smith, Ontario's Representative in Washington, D.C., has been working with Texas officials to ensure ongoing awareness of Ontario's close relationship and solicit support. We have also enlisted the support of Texas Strategy Group, experts in the state legislative process, to ensure our position remains top of mind during these discussions.
The bill may receive final approval from the Texas Legislative Assembly as soon as this weekend. If it becomes law, the bill would come into force on September 1, 2017. In the days ahead, we will continue to advocate for Ontario's interests and work with Texas lawmakers to seek an exemption for the province.
As Premier, I will continue to push for open, fair and competitive access to government contracts and free trade overall. However, we are also prepared to respond strongly to this action.
Last month, Cabinet decided that the government can move ahead with introducing legislation that would allow Ontario to appropriately respond to discriminatory Buy American policies, should Texas or other states prevent Ontario suppliers from openly bidding on their procurement opportunities. 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.
I will continue to work directly with the 28 governors of states which count Ontario as a top customer, and our government is continuing to step up our efforts to ensure that lawmakers in these states clearly understand the value of our strong and balanced economic relationship.
I will stand up for the people of Ontario every time. And I will continue to fight for free trade and open procurement, which means good jobs for Ontario workers and more opportunity for Ontario businesses."