WASHINGTON – Products the federal government buys would need a higher share of U.S. parts to qualify as "made in America" under new rules the Biden administration proposed Wednesday.
Promoting the changes in Pennsylvania, President Joe Biden said the new policy would strengthen American manufacturing and crucial supply chains and make companies more inclined to hire and invest in their future.
"In recent years, Buy American has become a hollow promise," Biden said after touring a Mack Trucks facility and meeting with United Auto Workers members. "My administration is going to make Buy American a reality."
The federal fleets include more than 1,500 Mack trucks.
"This is all a part of his effort to lift up and talk about his `Buy American' agenda as well as the infrastructure package," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce immediately criticized the proposed changes, calling them "inefficient, costly, and ultimately counterproductive."
"In all acquisition matters, the Chamber believes that procurement officials need more flexibility rather than less to ensure they can acquire the products and services necessary to meet the critical missions of the U.S. government," John Murphy, the business group's senior vice president for international policy, said in a statement.
Current rules require 55% of a product, such as a government vehicle, to have been made in America, but Biden wants to immediately raise that to 60%. The threshold would increase to 75% by 2029.
Officials described those and other changes included in the proposal, which is being released for a 60-day public comment period, as the biggest update to the Buy American Act in nearly 70 years.
Shortly after taking office in 2017, then-President Donald Trump issued a series of executive orders that were intended to strengthen rules requiring federal agencies to buy U.S.-made goods when possible. But critics argued that effort fell short, partly because they said Trump failed to adequately enforce the rules.
The federal government spends nearly $600 billion a year on contracts, nearly half of which goes toward manufactured products – from helicopter blades to trucks to office furniture.
Biden boosted Buy American efforts in January
Biden, who pushed a $700 billion Buy American campaign as a candidate for president, signed his own executive order in his first week in office to steer more federal dollars to U.S. manufacturers.
The proposed changes fill in the details on that directive.
In addition to increasing the domestic content threshold, the updated requirements would make it harder for manufacturers to get a waiver from the rules.
Manufacturers of "critical products" would also have to specify the total domestic content in their product rather than simply certify that they have met the threshold.
Price preferences would be given to products considered crucial to national and economic security to lessen the dependence on foreign sources.
Officials said the changes are just the start of improvements the administration wants to make to the federal procurement process.
Contributing: Michael Collins
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Buy American: Biden to raise domestic content of government goods