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Canadian steel OK'd for border crossing

Keywords: Tags  Buy America, waiver, Federal Highway Administration, American Iron and Steel Institute, Thomas Gibson, USW, Leo Gerard, U.S.-Canada border crossing steel

CHICAGO — The U.S. Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has decided to partially waive "Buy America" requirements for the construction of a new border crossing between the United States and Canada.

The decision, which took effect Dec. 13, came in part because Canada is assuming all financial liability and risk for construction of the project, according to a U.S. Federal Register notice dated Dec. 12.

"The basic notion of fairness weighs in favor of allowing Canadian iron and steel to be used so long as American iron and steel is allowed to compete on an equal basis," according to the notice.

The waiver, requested by the governor of Michigan, applies only to the proposed border crossing and not to other federally funded highway projects, it said.

Some supporters of the waiver wanted ratios of Canadian and American steel and iron to be established, but the FHWA said establishing such percentages would be difficult and wasn’t in the public interest.

Supporters of the project—which is expected to connect Detroit to Windsor, Ontario—include Dearborn, Mich,-based Ford Motor Co. and several metals and mining firms, as well as unions and trade associations, the notice and public comments indicate.

Among them are ArcelorMittal Dofasco Inc., Hamilton, Ontario; Cliffs Natural Resources Inc., Cleveland; Essar Steel Algoma Inc., Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario; and Gerdau Long Steel North America, Tampa, Fla. Also expressing support for the waiver were the American Iron and Steel Institute, the United Steelworkers union and the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters trade association.

"Absent this special arrangement, there would be no assurance that this important project would go forward, and no assurance that a bridge financed with non-U.S. funds would be built with only U.S. and Canadian iron and steel," AISI president and chief executive officer Thomas Gibson said in September, when the FHWA was seeking comments on the proposed waiver.

USW president Leo Gerard largely agreed in comments he submitted. "The United Steelworkers has been a longtime and tireless advocate for strong and expanded ‘Buy American’ laws. ... Yet in this one-of-a-kind circumstance, we believe the public-interest exception is appropriate under the unique circumstances at issue," he said, noting that the project could directly and indirectly create more than 10,000 U.S. jobs.

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