WATCH - Trump: ‘Buy American, Hire American’ | Global Trade Magazine
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  April 19th, 2017 | Written by

WATCH – Trump: ‘Buy American, Hire American’

Policy Does Not Quite Match the Slogan

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  • Trump wants to maximize domestic goods in federal assistance and procurement programs.
  • The Buy American executive order was less definitive than the president’s sloganeering.
  • Presidential power is bound by legislation and treaties.

President Donald Trump signed another executive order yesterday, this one dubbed Buy American, Hire American. The policy, as described by the president, was to maximize the use of domestic goods in federal assistance and procurement programs. The actual terms of the executive order itself was not as definitive. The order also dealt with reform of some immigration visa programs.

Here’s how the president described the new policy.

“Together, we’re going to do everything in our power to make sure that more products are stamped with those wonderful words Made in the USA,”  he said, to a crowd at the Snap-On Tools plant in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

“With this action, we are sending a powerful signal to the world:  We’re going to defend our workers, protect our jobs, and finally put America first….

“First, we will fully monitor, uphold and enforce our Buy American laws — which we haven’t done. Buy American laws require that when the federal government buys, builds or funds a project, domestic goods and products should be used. But over the years, these Buy American standards have been gutted by excessive waivers and reckless exemptions. The result has been countless jobs and countless contracts that have been lost to cheap, subsidized, and low-quality foreign goods.

“With this order, I am directing every single agency in our government to strictly uphold our Buy American laws, to minimize the use of waivers, and to maximize Made in America content in all federal projects.”

The order itself states at the outset that “it shall be the policy of the executive branch to maximize, consistent with law, through terms and conditions of federal financial assistance awards and federal procurements, the use of goods, products, and materials produced in the United States.”

That’s definitive enough, but it contains an out: “consistent with law.” Buy American programs are likely inconsistent with US obligations under World Trade Organization agreements.

At a more specific level, the order asks the heads of all agencies within 150 days to “assess the monitoring of, enforcement of, implementation of, and compliance with Buy American Laws within their agencies;” and “assess the use of waivers within their agencies by type and impact on domestic jobs and manufacturing. They are then to propose policies that would maximize the use of domestic products “to the extent permitted by law.”

On the issue of waivers, the order demands that decision makers take into account whether the foreign product proposed to be procured includes dumped iron or steel.

The end product of the entire process will be a report, submitted to the president by the Secretary of Commerce within 220 days.

Trump was accurate when he said, “We’re going to do everything in our power” to source more domestic goods. The problem is that presidential power only goes so far. He is bound by legislation and treaties. Some of those won’t allow him to go as far as he says he’d like to procure domestically. Conducting assessments and writing a report doesn’t go very far “to make sure that more products are stamped with…Made in the USA.”


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