Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says Canada is watching the situation “very, very closely” at Canadian ports and the impact on businesses as the world continues to struggle with a COVID-19 supply chain crunch that has snarled everything from appliance parts to car tires and semiconductors.
Ms. Freeland spoke from the Canadian embassy in Washington, D.C., following meetings with U.S. lawmakers that she said touched on the supply chain issues as well as contentious proposals before Congress to beef up ‘Buy American’ provisions that would favour American manufacturers.
The meetings took place amid heightened concerns about shortages of a range of things due to what Freeland called the “uneven” reopening of global economies that were quickly shuttered in varying degrees starting in March 2020 to limit the spread of COVID-19.
“In terms of Canada, we are definitely mindful of the supply chain issues in the Canadian economy. We are monitoring the supply chain and Canadian ports very, very closely,” she told journalists on Thursday.
“Turning an economy back on is uneven and that natural unevenness is compounded by the fourth wave of the coronavirus. We need to be realistic of that, mindful of that, but I think we can also have a very confident outlook about Canada’s economy resilience and about our economy recovery.”
The International Monetary Fund warned earlier in the week that supply chain disruptions will likely mean “more difficult near-term prospects” for advanced economies, and trimmed its global economic growth forecast for the remainder of the fiscal year.
Labour shortages, a lack of shipping containers, a surge in online shopping, a shortage of semiconductor chips and clogged ports in many regions around the world are among the factors causing the problems.
U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced one of the country’s largest ports, in Los Angeles, would begin operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week in a bid to relieve some of the pressure.
The fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is being fuelled by the highly contagious Delta variant, which has caused renewed surges in cases as the pandemic increasingly becomes one primarily infecting unvaccinated people. People who are vaccinated have a significantly lower risk of infection, hospitalization and death from the virus, though breakthrough infections are happening.
As part of her meetings, Ms. Freeland said she met with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and emphasizes the need for trade between Canada and the U.S. to remain “reciprocal” in terms of the opportunities available to domestic companies.
Mr. Biden has been continuing a protectionist approach to trade and economic policy that was first initiated in force by his predecessor, Donald Trump.
‘Buy American’ policies grant preferential access to American companies and firms for things like lucrative government contracts. American firms get about $1 billion worth of Canadian government contracts each year, said Ms. Freeland, emphasizing that access is granted under the expectation that Canadian firms will get reciprocal access.
“When it comes to Buy America, it’s important for the United States to understand that procurement is a reciprocal relationship,” said Ms. Freeland, who is also Canada’s finance minister.
“Our procurement opportunities will be open to your companies just as much as your procurement opportunities are open to ours, and that is something that I discussed with the secretary of the Treasury.”
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