Will President Trump stick to his "buy American, hire American" pledge?
Back in December, President-elect Donald Trump told a crowd during his victory tour that his administration will follow two simple rules:
He said it again during his inaugural address in January.
And he said it again this week, into a microphone, at another rally in Kentucky. Man! The president likes to say “Buy American, hire American.”
That’s good! It’s something we can coalesce around. Buy American policies tend to get bipartisan support. Now that he's been in office for a few months, is the president gonna back it up?
The American steel industry expects he will, but plans to do its part to make him. They’ve written to him, asking him to keep Buy America rules tight and well-written, so they can’t be exploited.
That’s important because in the coming months, President Trump is expected to unveil a proposal for massive infrastructure spending – precisely the kind of spending to which that “Buy American, hire American” rhetoric should apply. And foreign firms are working very hard to get carve-outs.
The New York Daily News today looks at one example, Russian steelmaker NLMK, which makes its steel in Russia before shipping it to its plants it owns in America where it’s reheated and reshaped. NLMK wants the existing “melted and poured” standard – requiring all of that work to be done by American workers – loosened so it can bid for taxpayer-funded projects:
Such steel is cheaper than fully-U.S. made products — but the majority of the jobs go to workers doing the melting overseas, critics point out. Also, wages are lower and health and environmental regulations are often more lax in foreign countries — or in some cases non-existent. Many foreign governments also subsidize production to outbid U.S. competition, American steel makers contend.
The fight NLMK is waging (it has paid $200,000 to a Washington, DC lobbying firm to loosen the “melted and poured” standard) is happening on the state level, right now, with slightly different actors. New York is considering a Buy America rule for its own procurement, and opponents -- typically importers -- are protesting the rules.
But Buy America backers make a pretty tough point to refute: It makes little sense to send tax dollars to foreign companies, when those dollars could support domestic job growth.
Here’s what AAM President Scott Paul told the Daily News:
"Saying their Russian steel is American-made is like importing a foreign car, putting windshield wipers on it here, and then telling everyone that it's American-made. It's ludicrous.”
President Trump has a great line in “Buy American, hire American.” He should make sure, then, that a Russian-made steel doesn’t get any special treatment on his watch.
Read the whole NLMK loophole story right here.