President Joe Biden will be more predictable, but also protectionist, says Quebec Premier Legault
Bombardier's North American Division President Raymond Bachant, left to right, Quebec Transport Minister Jacques Daoust, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre and STM Chairman of the Board Philippe Schnobb take a ride in one of the new AZUR metro cars, Montreal, Que., Feb. 7, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Mario Beauregard
QUEBEC CITY -- A new arrival in the White House doesn't mean that protectionism is going away south of the border, said Quebec Premier François Legault on Thursday, raising his concerns about the use of "Buy American" clauses.
At a press conference, Legault warned that it won't be easy to have this approach relaxed in Washington, even if the Democratic administration of Joe Biden may be more "predictable" than that of his predecessor.
"We have to be careful," Legault said. "When you look at the history of the United States, Democrats were more protectionist than Republicans until the arrival of [Donald] Trump. This will be part of the discussions we will have tonight with Mr. [Canadian Prime Minister Justin] Trudeau."
The Canadian premiers were scheduled to speak to Trudeau Thursday night about a variety of matters.
In an effort to stimulate the economy, Biden proposed massive investments in infrastructure and other transportation projects, while promoting the purchase of American products through "Buy American" clauses.
This could complicate things for several companies wishing to do business with Quebec's, and Canada's, most important commercial partner.
"It is very important that we understand that there's a chain among suppliers where a product can cross the border several times, and it is not to the advantage of Americans or Canadians to have "Buy American" type laws or regulations," Legault said.
South of the border, public transportation plans already stipulate that 70 per cent of their components must be made in the U.S. and that final assembly must be done on American soil. However, Quebec will be the North American headquarters of Alstom, which is set to become the owner of the Bombardier rail division next week.
Legault said that American contracts "will go through Quebec," which, he said, demonstrates why protectionist clauses shouldn't exist.
At the same time, a Democratic administration that aims to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by using renewable energy could be good news for Hydro-Quebec as it pursues its strategy to become the "battery of the American northeast," said Legault.
The state-owned company already has a major contract in its pocket with Massachusetts and it intends to try to land another as part of a call for tenders in New York.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021.