Trump orders agencies to buy U.S.-made steel, aluminum and cement ‘to the greatest extent’ possible

Trump orders agencies to buy U.S.-made steel, aluminum and cement ‘to the greatest extent’ possible

A new executive order from U.S. President Donald Trump aims to strengthen his Buy America initiative by “encouraging” agencies to purchase a wider range of U.S.-made materials for infrastructure projects.

The order, published Thursday, urges agency heads to purchase more American-made construction materials for infrastructure projects ranging from surface transportation and water infrastructure to energy transmission, broadband internet and cybersecurity projects.

It follows on Trump’s 2017 “Buy American, Hire American” executive order, which tightened standards for federal procurement departments and companies that hire foreign workers.

“By signing this order today, we renew our commitment to an essential truth: It matters where something is made, and it matters very greatly,” Trump said during a signing ceremony in the Oval Office Jan 31.

The order encourages agencies “to use, to the greatest extent practicable, iron and aluminum as well as steel, cement, and other manufactured products produced in the United States in every contract, subcontract, purchase order or sub-award.”

It also requires the head of each agency administering an affected program to submit a report to Trump identifying new opportunities to use Buy America rules. The reports are due May 31.

Government procurement rules were among the sticking points between Canadian and U.S. officials during the 17 months of talks to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The U.S. had initially insisted on restricting access to lucrative government contracts by employing a dollar-for-dollar formula that would limit Canadian and Mexican firms’ contracts to what American companies win in their countries.

Though it eventually backed down from that demand, the U.S. maintained specific Buy America exemptions that had existed in the original deal, said Lawrence Herman, a former Canadian diplomat who practices international trade law at Herman & Associates.

(Agencies are encouraged to use) iron and aluminum as well as steel, cement, and other products produced in the U.S. in every contract, subcontract, purchase order or sub-award

President Trump executive order

The existing Buy America program is “having an incredible effect,” Trump said. “I mean, people don’t realize it yet, but they’re seeing it more and more. We are mandating even pipelines and things that were made elsewhere.  They’re starting to be made here because we have a steel industry again.  But it’s having a tremendous effect.”

Trump is facing mounting pressure from business groups and politicians to drop tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. In recent days representatives of both the Democrat-controlled Congress and the Republican party have said the President’s signature trade deal — the new NAFTA — will not be ratified unless the levies are dropped.

U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican and head of the finance committee responsible for guiding the deal to approval in the Senate, last week called on the Trump administration to lift the levies on Canada and Mexico before legislation to implement the new NAFTA is considered.

In addition to lifting the U.S. levies, the administration should “secure the elimination of retaliatory tariffs that stand to wipe out gains our farmers have made over the past two and a half decades,” Grassley said in a statement.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland travelled to Washington Wednesday where she was slated to meet with Grassley to discuss tariffs and the trade deal.

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