The “Buy American” federal procurement program has been a smashing success for American businesses and workers. That’s why more than 130 House Democrats and Republicans are pushing to make sure it isn’t traded away as part of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
Lawmakers signed onto two different letters this week that called on the Obama administration to protect the more than 80-year-old program from being phased out as a condition included in the Pacific Rim trade agreement. Such a move would hurt the U.S. economy and employment while funneling American tax dollars into the pockets of other nations.
“We must buy America to build America, and government procurement policy is no exception,” said Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md., a leader behind one of the letters. “Since 1933, Buy American policies have helped create jobs, grown our economy, and strengthen domestic manufacturing.”
That letter, signed by 121 mostly Democratic House members, points out that Buy American rules have helped create strong middle-class jobs in the U.S. It also notes that the TPP would gut the program, resulting in “large sums of U.S. tax dollars being offshored and invested to strengthen many other countries’ manufacturing sectors, rather than our own.”
A separate letter signed by 14 House GOP lawmakers took a similar tone. It said scrapping Buy American requirements that give preferential treatment to American companies is a non-starter. “We fear the proposed TPP terms will result in U.S. tax dollars being offshored and invested to strengthen other countries’ manufacturing sectors, rather than these tax dollars being spent at home to improve our own economy,” it stated.
Already, the House has approved language as part of an appropriations bill that calls for the program to be continued. The Senate, however, has not taken action on the proposal. As Congress heads home for August recess, momentum is building and the people need to let their elected officials know the truth.
If Buy American is ended, American companies would be the big losers. The U.S. federal procurement market is more than 10 times larger than all the other prospective procurement markets combined. So in essence, the U.S. would be trading preferential access to the $556 billion American federal government procurement market in exchange for just $53 billion worth of new national procurement markets overseas.
Also, does it make sense to potentially turn over the U.S. military manufacturing keys to Chinese-owned Vietnamese companies that would be privy to state secrets? As Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa recently wrote in “The Detroit News:” “Hell no!”
It is rare indeed for any issue in Washington to receive support from both sides of the aisle. But here you have it. These trade patriots rightfully acknowledge that no matter what the politics might be, axing Buy American is a big mistake.