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International Trade Minister Ed Fast is to announce a corporate social responsibility policy in a speech in Vancouver Friday, saying it is important to protect Canada’s “brand” as a global heavyweight in the resource industries.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Canadian Trade Minister Ed Fast said he's "disappointed" by the passage of a New Jersey Buy American bill that bans the use of foreign content in all state contracts.

The Democratic-held legislature passed the bill Thursday by a 43-25 margin – the latest in a series of proliferating protectionist purchasing restrictions in the U.S.

"To spur economic growth, you need to lower trade barriers, not create new ones," Max Moncaster, Mr. Fast's press secretary, said Friday.

The New Jersey's Republican Governor Chris Christie could opt to block the legislation, which was opposed by his party and various business groups in the state.

Canadian exporters are urging Mr. Christie to use his veto powers to stop a bill they say will harm both countries.

"New Jersey legislators have seemingly made it clear they do not want to do business with Canada," CME President and chief executive Jayson Myers said. "They think they are protecting jobs. In reality, given the integrated nature of manufacturing, they are killing jobs in both the United States and Canada."

U.S.-only purchasing rules have become a lightning rod for exporters, who say the range of government contracts now out of bounds to Canadian companies has grown significantly in recent years.

The trend has even spread to Canada. The Alaska ferry service announced recently that it plans to rebuild a terminal it leases from a Canadian government port authority in Prince Rupert, B.C., using U.S.-only steel -- as required by the U.S. government, which is funding the $10-$20-million (U.S.) project.

"We need all levels of government in Canada and the United States to keep markets open for manufacturers from both countries," Mr. Myers said. "Free trade must be reciprocal, and right now a lot of it is just flowing north into Canada."

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