Ontario Premier Doug Ford heads to Washington on Monday for trade mission

This item is part of Watching Washington, a regular dispatch from CBC News correspondents reporting on U.S. politics and developments that affect Canadians.

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Ontario Premier Doug Ford is headed to Washington on Monday for high-level meetings with officials in the Biden administration and business leaders, according to a senior source with the province. 

The trip is being described as a trade mission aimed at attracting more skilled workers to Ontario, while also highlighting the harm caused by U.S. protectionist policies.

It will be the premier’s first visit to the U.S. since protest blockades over pandemic mandates shut down the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ont., disrupting the vital trade corridor for several days and costing millions of dollars. 

According to the source, “Premier Ford will also reaffirm that Ontario is a safe and reliable jurisdiction for investment and business.”

Ford is travelling with Vic Fideli, minister of economic development and trade.

The official agenda includes meetings with Marisa Lago, undersecretary of commerce for international trade, and Daniel Watson, assistant U.S. trade representative for the Western Hemisphere.

Ford will also participate in a roundtable discussion with members of the Canadian American Business Council.

The context

U.S. President Joe Biden is aggressively pursuing Buy American policies as a way to create new jobs and grow the economy. It was a significant focus of his state of the union address and is a priority for the White House.

Biden is particularly interested in expanding the production of electric vehicles in the U.S., though legislation to bolster the sector has failed to garner enough support in Congress. 

The Canadian and Ontario governments are adamantly against the electric vehicle policy proposal from Biden, arguing it would kill Canadian auto-sector jobs. 

American customers would get thousands of dollars in tax breaks for purchasing an electric vehicle made in the U.S., even more if it is built by union labour.

Canadian politicians have aggressively lobbied U.S. lawmakers to either change the policy to include Canadian labour or kill it all together. 

This trip also comes at a time when some U.S. lawmakers view Canada as an unreliable trading partner. 

Michigan Democrat Elissa Slotkin used the pandemic mandate protests that shut down the Ambassador Bridge as an example of why the U.S. should rely less on foreign trading partners. 

On Twitter, she wrote, “It doesn’t matter if it’s an adversary or an ally — we can’t be this reliant on parts coming from foreign countries.”

Canadian Trade Minister Mary Ng has been making regular visits to Washington to try to deliver the same sort of reassurance message to U.S. trade officials and lawmakers. 

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