Good evening, Mr. Chair and members of the committee. It's good to be back with you again today.
The policy known as buy American has been a large and remarkably deep-rooted fact on the economic ground of our continent for generations. The Canadian American Business Council has grappled with it repeatedly since our founding more than three decades ago. The issue seems to reassert itself more urgently with each new administration and, more particularly, with each new fiscal crisis.
The Biden administration's infrastructure and economic recovery package proposes spending trillions—all packaged with a buy American caveat. Canada has objections, of course, but effective criticism always rests on a thorough understanding of the counterparty's rationale.
It's useful to consider why buy American is so consistently deployed by U.S. legislators and policy-makers. Put simply, buy American codifies the idea that restricting foreign inputs will help create U.S. jobs. While that school of thought—much as I disagree with it—may actually have some merit where other countries are concerned, the exact opposite is true with respect to Canada.
Given the extent of integration between our two economies, which has developed since the first free trade agreement, the best way to create more American jobs is to deepen that integration even further. We have never been more interdependent. Given our reality, trade barriers against each other are particularly self-defeating and costly. The buy American policy will actually redound on the American workforce and cost American jobs.
It is also important to consider that buy American is nothing new. It should not be taken as some sort of contempt for or indifference to Canada. Governments led by Republicans and by Democrats at the federal and state levels have imposed buy American restrictions on public spending for literally generations, or at least as long as I've been paying attention, which is a long time. To be fair, let's recognize that imposing domestic preferences for public spending is not a uniquely American practice. Trade agreements around the world allow for a certain amount of protectionism. Yes, Canada has opened up its procurement in recent years, but it still fights hard to limit foreign access in certain sectors. The Canadian public actually demands it. You know that better than I do.
That said, we are concerned by the extent of the buy American provisions in the new U.S. legislation. We submit that unless Canada is granted an exemption, a carve-out or, if you will, a “carve-in”, the spending rules will quickly crash into some unforgiving facts.
Take New Jersey. Canada is New Jersey's second-biggest export market. New Jersey sells more goods to Canada than to its next two largest markets combined and it imports billions worth of Canadian goods. Nearly 180,000 New Jersey jobs depend on smooth cross-border supply chains. Buy American would disrupt those chains and reduce the availability of competitively priced Canadian supplies to New Jersey businesses. That means inefficiency. Inefficiency costs jobs. That's just in New Jersey. Almost every other state in the United States has the same economic reality.
Take PPE. Canada is a top supplier of personal protective equipment to the United States. Let's not forget that the previous administration, at the outset of the pandemic, attempted to restrict export of N95 masks to Canada and the Caribbean, but then quickly backed off. Why? Because Canada provides inputs to critical PPE and medical supplies to the United States. The dependence is mutual.
There's another example that we know directly relates to the big economic recovery package. President Biden's infrastructure plan will focus, as we know, on clean energy like wind farms. By the way, happy Earth Day. Quebec companies produce some of the most sought-after wind turbine components in the world. Texas produces more wind energy, by far, than any other state. It's a natural market marriage. Every week, a CN train pulls out of New Richmond, Quebec, loaded with turbine towers or those gigantic, 120-foot-long blades. It makes its way to Chicago and then down the Mississippi to the gulf. Since 2016, CN has moved about 9,000 Canadian-made turbine components to wind farms along its network in the United States. This trade in wind turbines is a direct result of our three consecutive free trade treaties. Restricting it would simply cost American and Canadian jobs.
A smaller, but perhaps more glaring example is under construction right now in Bettendorf, Iowa. The city is building a new bridge and proposes to install a set of elevators to lift pedestrians and cyclists up from ground level to the bridge's pedestrian/bike trail. Local officials have realized that some of the necessary parts for the elevators are only made in Canada. Unless some buy American restrictions are waived, Bettendorf will have to order the parts custom-made in the U.S., doubling the $427,000 cost of the elevators.
We would argue that Bettendorf's dilemma in one form or another will be repeated across the United States on a vast and expanding scale, unless Canada is carved out, or carved in, if you will, from buy American.
Canada will need an exemption. It's a reasonable ask, and there's precedent. Back in 2009, Canada obtained an exemption that allowed Canadian businesses to compete for hundreds of billions in stimulus spending after the housing meltdown.
How did that exemption come to pass? Ask Canada's ambassador at the time, Gary Doer. He worked with the steelworkers' union, which had members on both sides of the border, and a collective voice mighty enough to make itself heard in the White House. As Ambassador Doer likes to tell it, he got the American hard hats involved and appealed to their self-interest.
This time around, Canada will need just as compelling a message. We have built a system of mutually assured growth. Let's not disrupt it.
The Canadian American Business Council advocates ceaselessly to reduce red tape at the border, streamline and match industrial policies, and generally make commerce between our countries smoother and easier.
Buy America may be intuitive for American policy-makers. It should be equally intuitive for Canada to vigorously make the self-evident case for an exemption—a carve-out or a carve-in. The CABC is there to help. Our countries need to recover economically, and we need to do it together.
We actually have a North American rebound campaign that I think we've talked about in the past. I'd be delighted to talk with you about it more if you'd like to tonight.
Thank you ever so much.