Murphy’s amendment to support domestic manufacturing

By:  Scott Whipple
The Bristol Press

Ahead of the U.S. Senate’s vote on Trade Promotion Authority legislation, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy has introduced an amendment to this “fast track” legislation and is pressing for a vote on the amendment. Murphy said on Tuesday it will ensure that the U.S. government prioritizes the purchase of American-made goods and supports the U.S. domestic manufacturing base. Murphy’s amendment would prohibit federal agencies from waiving domestic sourcing requirements allowed through the Trade Agreements Act of 1979.

Speaking by phone from Washington, Murphy said, “I’m putting major limitations on the trade agreement waiver. [Currently] if a country signs a trade agreement with the United States, that country doesn’t have to comply with the Buy American Act. Work moves overseas because of these trade agreements.”

Under Murphy’s amendment companies would not be able to use that waiver “if any American company makes that particular item at a competitive price or if it results in putting an American company out of business.”

The Trade Agreements Act allows President Barack Obama to waive all domestic sourcing laws, like those under the Buy American Act, for countries that have trade agreements with the U.S. These waivers were originally intended to be used only when an American-made good was unavailable or the cost of a product or service would be increased to prohibitively high levels. However, Murphy says loopholes in the legislation have allowed agencies to exploit this waiver, leaving American manufacturers behind.

In Fiscal Year 2013 alone, the U.S. Department of Defense granted 1,173 waivers and upwards of $475 million on items manufactured overseas, all to the detriment of American defense manufacturers. Murphy says his amendment would close these loopholes and make it impossible for agencies to use these waivers without considering long- and short-term effects on American businesses and employment.

“I’m for free trade, but it needs to be fair trade,” said the senator. “For too long, we’ve been shipping money and jobs overseas instead of investing billions of dollars in our manufacturing economy. Too many talented, hardworking manufacturers in Connecticut are out of work because the federal government isn’t doing enough to prioritize American jobs when making purchases.”

Murphy added that “the United States should only support trade deals that don’t immediately allow other countries to unfairly undercut American companies. [My] amendment is simple and straightforward; it will create new jobs, bolster our country’s manufacturing sector, and grow opportunities for the middle class.”

According to Murphy, the manufacturing industry plays a crucial role in Connecticut communities, creating new jobs and accelerating our state’s economic recovery. Today, Connecticut’s 4,602 manufacturers account for 10.2 percent of the state’s jobs and 87 percent of the state’s total exports.

The senator says he wants to “eliminate barriers to U.S. exports and update trade policies that fail to meet the needs of Connecticut’s economy.” To protect and grow jobs, Murphy has introduced two pieces of legislation: the 21st Century Buy American Act and the American Jobs Matter Act — both would, he says, strengthen existing standards and prioritize the purchase of American-made goods.