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NY OKs scaled-down ‘Buy American’ plan after Canada objects

ALBANY — The legislature and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Tuesday agreed to a scaled-down “Buy American” plan after a broader proposal drew the ire of Canadian officials.

The new proposal gives preference to American companies when the state buys steel and iron in contracts worth more than $1 million.

The old proposal was significantly revised after Canadian officials strongly objected to the plan.

Under Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s original proposal in January, the preference to buy from American companies would have applied to all purchases over $100,000 by all government agencies and authorities.

The new agreement will instead require the state to buy American-made structural steel and iron costing more than $1 million that will be used in road and bridge construction projects. The new proposal also limits the preference for American companies to seven state agencies.

Canada, which enjoys a free flow of trade back and forth with western New York and other upstate areas, had lobbied hard to knock down the Buy American initiative in the spring.

In May, Ontario hired the Bolton-St. Johns lobbying firm, whose partners include Giorgio DeRosa. He is the father of Melissa DeRosa, who holds the top adviser job of secretary to the governor.

State lobbying records show the lobbying firm was hired by the Ontario Office of International Relations and Protocol in March at a rate of $12,500 per month, and by the Quebec Office of the Economy, Science and Innovation in June for $6,250 per month this summer and $12,500 in September. There was no specific legislation noted in the records and the firm didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The firm lobbied the legislature and a Cuomo administration official said Canada at one point sought to be exempt from the measure.

“I’m proud that we’ve reached agreement on a policy that will undoubtedly spur economic prosperity for New York workers and firms that have seen business outsourced,” said Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx), head of the Independent Democratic Conference.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport), said “imports of cheap iron ore and steel of potentially questionable quality are putting American companies at a competitive disadvantage.”

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. that 680,000 jobs in New York depend on trade with Canada. She said the continued cross-border trade is in the best interests of each country.

The preference could be suspended in cases of emergency or a threat to the public, as in a natural disaster.

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