The European Union and Canada have both publicly warned at the consequences for world trade of provisions in America's draft economic recovery bill that would require all stimulus-funded infrastructure projects to only buy US iron, steel and manufactured goods.
John Bruton, the European Commission's representative in Washington, wrote to the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, warning that the current 'buy American' stimulus provisions risk initiating "a spiral of protectionist measures around the globe that can only hurt our economies further." Canada's Ambassador to the United States worries that "if Buy American becomes part of the stimulus legislation, the United States will lose the moral authority to pressure others not to introduce protectionist policies."
The leader of Republicans in the Senate, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, has also attacked provisions that have the public backing of Vice President Joe Biden:
There was always a danger that a Democrat takeover of Washington would have serious consequences for trade. The unions that are such a powerful force in the Democrat party have consistently campaigned against jobs being shipped overseas. Democrats in Congress are keen to revisit the North American Free Trade Agreement and have opposed free trade pacts with South American states.
A poll of British voters carried out for the London Centre for the Study of Anti-Americanism in August last year found that protectionism was the greatest threat to Obama's popularity. 70% said they were likely to think favourably of him if he introduced measures that stopped some UK companies enjoying access to American markets.