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'Buy American' measure signed into New York law

ALBANY – Though watered down from a previous effort, a new law was approved Friday by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo requiring that American-made steel and iron products be used in state road and bridge projects.

The approval came despite a report by The Buffalo News last month that Canadian officials were not ruling out taking trade retaliation steps once Cuomo approved the “Buy American” measure. Officials from Ontario and Quebec actively lobbied against the effort.

The premier of Ontario on Friday warned about going ahead with new rules against New York firms doing business in the province.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne Friday night said she is “disappointed” Cuomo signed the Buy American legislation.

“As I indicated when this legislation was first being considered, Ontario is prepared to respond strongly to this type of action,’’ Wynne said.

The Ontario premier did not elaborate but said the Ontario Cabinet already decided it can proceed with legislation against any state that enacts “discriminatory” measures against the province.

“That response could include giving Ontario the ability to restrict its own procurement policies and processes for firms that are located in a U.S. state with discriminatory Buy American policies,’’ she said.

Wynne said Ontario, with Quebec, was successful in beating back a more restrictive Buy America measure proposed by Cuomo earlier this year. But she said Canadian officials will now study the new law in New York to determine how best to respond.

“Whatever Buy American legislation is being discussed or considered, I will continue to advocate for free trade and open, fair and competitive access to government contracts and I will stand up for Ontario workers and businesses every time,’’ Wynne, the Ontario premier, said.

The signing by Cuomo was hailed by the state AFL-CIO, which lobbied for the measure. “This ensures our hard-earned tax dollars are invested right back into our own workforce and not sent overseas,’’ said AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento.

The law applies to projects costing more than $1 million and its requirements can be bypassed by an agency if it determines, in its sole discretion, the purchasing requirement will result in “unreasonable costs” for a project. The statute will apply to the state Department of Transportation, Thruway Authority, Office of General Services, SUNY Construction Fund, Dormitory Authority and Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Quebec officials did not respond to questions about the new law in New York.

“Buy American policy keeps our workforce strong and fortifies our economy,’’ said Sen. Jeff Klein, a Bronx Democrat who chairs the Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference, which pushed the proposal.

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