Nearly 9,000 people joined us in telling the FHWA to discontinue the agency’s general waiver of Buy America for manufactured products, which dates back to 1983.
The Alliance for American Manufacturing on Monday officially delivered comments to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) on the general waiver of Buy America for manufactured products, urging the agency to discontinue this overly broad waiver that has long “denied opportunities to expand domestic supply chains and have discouraged investments in U.S. production.”
When Congress passed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill in 2021, it included language called Build America, Buy America that directed the FHWA “to apply a domestic content preference to manufactured products,” AAM noted. Keeping this longstanding Buy America loophole on the books would undermine Congressional intent, AAM argued:
“With the enactment of BABA as part of the BIL, it is inappropriate and unreasonable for FHWA to continue applying this general waiver. In fact, Congress clearly had the FHWA’s longstanding 1983 general waiver for manufactured products in mind when it included BABA in the BIL, which explicitly requires the head of each Federal agency awarding federal financial assistance for public infrastructure to require as a condition of that federal assistance that the recipient apply a procurement preference for manufactured products, as well as iron, steel, and construction materials, when expending funds for an infrastructure project.”
It’s also important to remember that 2023 is not 1983. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain shortages and general global unrest, the United States has become painfully aware of the dangers of being too reliant on imports — including from potential adversaries — for the things we need. There’s bipartisan agreement we need to do more to grow domestic manufacturing, and the United States has begun to pursue more industrial policy to achieve this.
Keeping the offshoring loophole on the books would only serve to undermine the hard work and trillions of dollars being spent, we argued:
FHWA’s 40-year-old general waiver of Buy America for manufactured products represents a colossal missed opportunity to maximize the return on taxpayer infrastructure investments with stronger domestic supply chains and more jobs. After all, a national focus on bringing back lost industrial capabilities and strengthening what remains has never been more important, as our nation has become painfully aware of our broken supply chains.
AAM isn’t alone in urging FHWA to end the waiver. Nearly 9,000 people joined us in sending in comments asking the agency to discontinue the waiver. The United Steelworkers (USW) and the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department (TTD) also submitted comments in support of ending the waiver.
“The purchasing power of the U.S. federal government, and the federal assistance that it delivers for infrastructure and other purposes, has the potential to grow domestic job creation and U.S. manufacturing capabilities. Full Buy America implementation would improve our domestic supply chains and establish robust, comprehensive domestic content preferences across all federal aid infrastructure spending,” the USW wrote.
“However, FHWA’s 40-year-old general waiver of Buy America for manufactured products represents a missed opportunity to maximize the return on taxpayer infrastructure investments with stronger domestic supply chains and more jobs. With each passing year, tens of billions of federal assistance dollars across thousands of infrastructure projects are being spent absent major elements of existing Buy America laws, as well as the Build America, Buy America Act (BABA) in the BIL. The continued existence of the general waiver eliminates any incentive for future domestic investment for the manufacture of a vast array of products.”
The AFL-CIO TTD agreed, arguing that “targeted, time-limited and transparent waivers can serve instead.”
“The general applicability waiver discussed in this docket has survived for 40 years and has outlived its usefulness,” TTD’s Greg Regan wrote.
You can find AAM’s full comments here.