Ohio-Canadian Trade Helps Businesses Large And Small

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President Obama talked up foreign trade while visiting Canada. Canada does more trade with the U-S and with Ohio than any other country. But, a ‘Buy American” clause in the new stimulus package threatens to cool trade relations with Canada and that could effect Ohio businesses large and small.

The Ohio Department of Development says the state’s exports to Canada topped $20,000,000,000 dollars in 2007, So, trade tensions between the the U-S and Canada are being closely monitored on both sides of the border. Most of Ohio’s exports to Canada come from heavy manufacturers steel .auto parts ..but Canada also buys from some small Ohio businesses. Case in point: The Columbus Washboard Company of Logan. Owner, Jacqui Barnett, says she recently received what she calls a bulk order for 420 of the company’s hand-made washboards from the Canadian government.

“Yes we have sold some to the Canadian government. Its an item that they need and so we’re glad to be able to provide it for them.” Says Barnett.

As part of its sales pitch on the company’s website, The Columbus washboard company urges its customers to “be proud to buy american-made products” and help preserve the company, with its five employees, for future generations.

“q) Are you at all concerned about possible backlash against “Buy American?” No I’m not , and I’m proud to have an all made in America, American product available to anybody who would like to purchase it.” Says Barnett.

Barnett adds that about 25% of her orders come from overseas. Last year, the company sold 20,000 washboards. Lawrence Herman of the Cassels Brock-Blackwell law firm in Toronto monitors international trade. He says the Canadian government and businesses are keeping close track on “Buy American” sentiments. He says language in the recently passed stimulus bill has already sparked reaction among some Canadians.

“One of the opposition parties in parliament and one of the major unions in Canada have passed resolutions saying Canada should do the same thing. We should have a “Buy Canadian” act that prevents or requires Canadian muncipalities, provinces and the federal government to favor Canadian suppliers.” Herman says.

Herman hopes Ohio and Canada can avoid a trade dispute

“I’m hoping on the Canada U-S front and certainly between your state, Ohio, the Buckeye state, and the rest of Canada we won’t see that happening. I’m hopeful that business will go on as before.” Says herman.

While the five jobs at the Columbus Washboard Company do not fully depend on continued trade with Canada the recent orders from the Canadian government help boost the company’s bottom line.

Tom Borgerding WOSU News