A “Buy American” rider in the massive U.S. economic stimulus package that would block the use of foreign-made iron, steel, textiles and manufactured products is triggering a wave of alarm in Canada and around the world.

“The effect would be catastrophic,” said Jean-Michel Laurin, a spokesman for the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, which wrote the Canadian government to urge U.S. President Barack Obama to reverse the measure.

As China, India and the European Union warned protectionist barriers would hinder world trade, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Canada expected the United States to respect its free-trade commitments as it moves to build new roads, railways, bridges, airports, and housing.

“This is obviously a serious matter and a serious concern to us,” Harper told the Commons. “I know that countries around the world are expressing grave concern about some of these measures that go against, not just the obligations of the United States, but, frankly, the spirit of our G20 discussions.”

Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae said the position taken by Congress “is illegal.”
“A country cannot bring in a measure that restricts international commerce and international activity in this way.”