“I’ve long said that I don’t accept the defeatist view that the forces of automation and globalization can keep union jobs from growing here in America,” Biden said at a news conference before signing the order.
The order follows others Biden signed last week directing additional relief to the neediest Americans, as well as starting the process of raising the minimum wage for federal contractors and workers to $15 an hour.
Closing loopholes in federal purchasing
The President “believes we can rebuild the vitality of American manufacturing and our industrial strength. A big piece of that is centered around the idea that when we use taxpayer money to rebuild America, we buy American and we support American jobs,” the administration official said Sunday on a call with reporters.
Currently, a patchwork of federal rules requires that a portion of government spending on things like infrastructure, vehicles and other equipment is restricted to goods that are made in the United States. But there are loopholes depending on the material, the amount of the purchase, and what qualifies as American made.
Biden’s executive order will change how domestic content is defined and measured for qualifying products as well as increase the required threshold. It will also create a senior position at the Office of Management and Budget to oversee the process by which contractors can apply for waivers from the Buy American rules, with the goal of reducing the number of waivers granted.
The administration will also create a public website that will post all waiver requests and direct agencies to proactively connect with small American manufacturers that are often left out of the process.
What happened to Trump’s promised boost
The pandemic hit manufacturing hard as the rest of the economy slowed down. The sector is still down 543,000 jobs since February 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“Trump talked about buying American and hiring American a lot, but his executive orders didn’t amount to much at all,” said Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing.
“There’s an opening here for Joe Biden to really be a ‘Made in America’ president,” he added.
Many of America’s allies were hit with tariffs under the Trump administration. While Biden has also pledged to take a tough stance on trade and crack down on unfair trading practices, he has reiterated a commitment to do so in partnership with America’s allies — unlike his predecessor, who mostly acted unilaterally when it came to imposing tariffs.
“We remain very committed to working with partners and allies to modernize international trade rules to make sure that we can use our taxpayer dollars to stir investments in our own countries,” the Biden administration official said.