Congress agrees on "strong" Buy American plan

Thu Feb 12, 2009 8:26pm EST
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By Doug Palmer

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Congressional negotiators have agreed on a final Buy American provision as part of a $789 billion economic stimulus bill that requires public works projects funded by the plan to use only U.S.-made goods, including iron and steel, a lobbyist said on Thursday.

The final provision also includes language that requires the United States to implement the provision consistent with its trade commitments, said Scott Paul, executive director of the American Alliance for Manufacturing, whose members include major U.S. steel companies.

"It's a strong Buy American provision that's consistent with our international trade obligations and it will ensure the benefits of the economic recovery legislation will be seen in our manufacturing sector," Paul said, adding he received details on the provision from congressional aides.

The language requiring the United States to honor its trade pacts gives Canada, the European Union, Japan and a short list of other trading partners some comfort they would still be able to share in the expanded U.S. public works market created by the stimulus bill.

But many other countries such as China, India, Brazil and Russia, which are not members of an international government procurement agreement, could still be shut out.

The stimulus package includes about $48 billion in transportation projects, roughly $30 billion in infrastructure improvements and additional other spending that could be covered by the Buy American provisions.

Both the original House of Representatives and Senate bills targeted work on airports, bridges, canals, dams, dikes, pipelines, railroads, multiline mass transit systems, roads, tunnels, harbors and piers for the Buy American requirement.

As of Thursday evening, congressional appropriations committees with jurisdiction over the Buy American provision still had not released details of the final version.   Continued...