Democrats Say TTIP Shouldn't Weaken Buy American Laws

By:  Rosaelle Brevetti
Bloomberg BNA

Sept. 21 (BNA) -- The pending Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) shouldn't weaken Buy American government procurement laws with respect to the defense sector, a group of Senate Democrats told U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman in a Sept. 21 letter.

Froman is slated to meet with European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem in Washington, D.C. Sept. 22. European Union officials have said one of the goals in the TTIP negotiations is to gain further access to U.S. government procurement.

Sens. Chris Murphy (Conn.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.), Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), and Sherrod Brown (Ohio) urged Froman in TTIP talks to vigorously defend “Buy American” policies, which they said boost defense manufacturing jobs across the U.S.

The Buy American Act generally requires the U.S. government to prefer U.S.-made products in its purchases. In certain government procurements, the requirement may be waived if the domestic product is more expensive than an identical foreign-sourced product by a certain percentage, if the product is not available domestically in sufficient quantity or quality, or if a waiver is in the public interest.

The senators said the EU already has broad access to the U.S. procurement market. The Department of Defense routinely waives the Buy American Act with the result that “hundreds of billions of dollars” in federal contracts have been awarded to overseas firms, the letter said.

“We strongly believe that any further erosion of the Buy American Act, especially in the defense sector, would undermine our national security and threaten the growth and sustainability of our defense industrial base,” the senators said. American manufacturers have lost $176.8 billion in opportunities over the past eight years as a result of the side-stepping of Buy American policies, the letter said.

“Beyond the defense sector, government procurement policy is also critical when it comes to transportation and infrastructure. U.S. law recognizes that the federal government has a responsibility to ensure that domestic firms can compete fairly for U.S. taxpayer dollars. The beneficial ripple effect of federal investments in transportation and infrastructure—through jobs, direct and indirect spending, and increased tax revenue—is dramatically reduced when those dollars go to foreign firms.”

Sen. Murphy, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, spearheaded the letter.