Ron Pettigrew: “Buy American” Campaign

The current Presidential Legislation is considering a piece of legislation on the issue of “Buy American.” The issue of the “Buy American” debate has aroused considerable scrutiny from those opposing the legislation, as well as receiving praise from those in favor of the plan. The provisions of the legislation have undergone several changes since its initial introduction, but the fundamentals behind the plan have remained relatively stable. If approved, the plan would require that any and all federal projects, federally funded projects, or any other project that is associated with the federal government would use products and goods made only by manufacturers in the United States. An example would be that a road construction project on a federal highway would require that the concrete and other materials needed in order to complete the project must be purchased from a company that manufactures the product and materials within the continental United States.

One group that has held a firm stance in support of the issue has been the American Labor Unions. The harsh critics of the plan are mostly large corporations and chambers of commerce, they advocate that it focuses only on American issues and resembles what they consider “protectionism,” which they declare focuses only on the U.S. problems and completely disregards the potential for its adverse affects on the global economy and trade. The labor unions stoutly oppose this stance and have fiercely defended the “Buy American” campaign and denounce the claim that it is protectionism.

The labor unions feel that the buy American legislation will encourage growth within the United States as well as directly contribute to the creation of numerous jobs for Americans. One of the problems that past “Buy American” campaigns had was the imposing of tariffs on imports which led to a considerable amount of opposition to the idea. The current plan has no policies that are focused on deterring trade. The focus of the plan places an emphasis on the idea that if the federal government is going to spend money on projects in an effort to stimulate the economy, then the money should be funneled in a way that it has a direct impact on the local communities. If the funds from the stimulus bill were being spent on products and materials that were manufactured outside of the U.S. then they will have little impact on local economies and in turn be contributing to the growth of foreign markets while neglecting our own. The foreign markets are an essential part of stabilizing the global economy, but there also must be a solid focus on our own economy as well. The idea of including a domestic spending plan in stimulus plans is not new and in fact currently many foreign countries such as China, Japan, Great Britain, and France have already implemented similar legislation.

The “Buy American” campaign on the surface may appear as protectionism and is understandably opposed by business and corporations that have international interests. They view the plan as having an adverse impact on their ability to continue to expand globally, especially when many of these companies have already been actively moving portions of their businesses overseas in search of cheaper labor. The overall impact of the “Buy American” plan can have a positive impact on the American economy. By requiring federal money to be spent only on products and materials manufactured inside the continental United States, it ensures that the stimulus money is reaching those that are in need of it, the local communities. In spending the money locally, it goes directly into the U.S. economy and is used in a manner in which its goal has the most opportunity to be reached, to stimulate the American economy. The plan has no negative attributes in which it penalizes or otherwise diminishes free trade and in turn it is not focused on protectionism with the U.S. curling up inside a shell and neglecting the global economy.

Coile, Zachary. “Debate Over ‘Buy American’ in Stimulus.” San Francisco Chronicle. (accessed April 14, 2009). News Staff. “‘Buy American’ Not Protectionism, Says Union.” (accessed April 14, 2009).

Griswold, Daniel. “Protectionism with a Green Face and a Union Bug.” Center for Trade Policy Studies. (accessed April 14, 2009).

“Why ‘Buy American’ is Good Policy: And Interview with Scott Marshall.” (accessed April 14, 2009).