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Groups Prep for G-20 Summit in Iron City

Environmental groups, unions and the business community are wrapping up their lobbying efforts this week on domestic manufacturing issues, which are expected to generate corridor chatter among the world’s largest trading partners when they meet at the G-20 summit next week in Pittsburgh.

“The ‘Buy American’ provisions obviously are going to be a point of controversy,— former Rep. Phil English (R-Pa.) said. “The president is going to have a challenge — one that I think he can rise to — to listen to some of these concerns from trading partners but, at the same time, continue to be in a position to advocate for our economy as well.—

English, who represented western Pennsylvania until his defeat last November, now works at the lobby shop Arent Fox. English said he will be on hand next week for the trade summit’s events.

In Pittsburgh, the Alliance for Climate Protection, the labor-backed Blue Green Alliance and the United Steelworkers union will cap off a monthlong campaign with a rally Sept. 23, the eve of the G-20 summit. The international trade organization includes the leaders of world’s largest 19 industrialized countries and the European Union.

Ahead of the summit, the environmental coalition held 50 events in 20 states during the grass-roots lobbying push, “an effort to highlight the benefits of a clean energy economy in cities hardest hit by the economic recession and with the most to gain by clean energy jobs made in America,— according to coalition spokeswoman Alice McKeon.

Alliance for Climate Protection President Maggie Fox said at the start of the month-long campaign that “a clean energy economy is a sure-fire way to put our country back to work and on a path toward long-term economic prosperity.—

“The Alliance for Climate Protection and the Blue Green Alliance are crossing the country to show Americans — through tours of clean energy businesses, conversations with workers making the parts that harness clean energy and rallies with local residents — that the benefits of transitioning to a clean energy economy are available today through good-paying jobs which are giving new meaning to the term Made in America,— Fox said in a statement.

Dave Foster, executive director of the Blue Green Alliance, said it’s a coincidence that the coalition’s Sept. 23 rally is being held in Pittsburgh on the day before international trade leaders meet.

“The rally really is the culmination of 50 events that we’ve done all summer long … emphasizing the importance of clean energy jobs,— Foster said. “We’re not taking a position one way or another on [Buy American provisions].—

Canadian officials, in particular, are expected to take issue with restrictions included in this year’s $787 billion stimulus package that prohibit American’s largest trading partner from bidding on more than one-third of that pot, according to Canadian press reports. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is expected to discuss the trade restrictions when he meets with President Barack Obama on Wednesday.

While environmental groups are pushing more domestic production, the business community argues that the Buy American efforts actually do more harm than good to the U.S. economy and domestic jobs.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday released a report that said Buy American provisions in the economic stimulus legislation — combined with stalled free-trade agreements and a disagreement over cross-border trucking with Mexico — have put more than 500,000 American jobs in jeopardy.

The chamber’s study is part of an overall lobbying and advocacy effort by the group to spur on more international trade. The project, called the “Campaign for Free Enterprise,— will “remind Americans that our free enterprise system is what made our country prosperous and what will get us out of our economic difficulties,— said John Murphy, the chamber’s vice president for international affairs.

While the chamber’s effort is not tied specifically to the G-20 meeting, Murphy said his group will be monitoring the session closely.

Buy American provisions may not violate any U.S. commitments under international trade agreements, Murphy said, but they are nonetheless causing problems by creating new barriers to trade and investment. “As the study shows, Buy American is endangering close to 500,000 American jobs,— he added.

Canada’s local governments are threatening to retaliate against Buy American in October, Murphy said.

“Buy American is a disaster from the perspective of how it has frustrated the economic stimulus package,— he said. “Buy American simply adds red tape and bureaucratic roadblocks that have significantly impeded stimulus-funded projects.—

In particular, Murphy noted, projects related to water and wastewater have ground to a halt because the U.S. and Canada have an integrated market in the sector.

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