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Biden signs 'Buy American' executive order

"It's based on his view that we are making things in America and all of America is core to our economic strategy," a Biden administration official said.
Image: Joe Biden
President Joe Biden talks about the economy at the White House on Friday.Evan Vucci / AP

President Joe Biden signed an executive order Monday aimed at promoting the "Buy American" agenda he campaigned on last year, which seeks to bolster U.S. manufacturing through the federal procurement process.

The executive order directs agencies to strengthen requirements about purchasing products and services from U.S. workers and businesses, cuts some red tape and creates a position in the Office of Management and Budget responsible for enforcing the directive.

The order also reiterates the Biden administration's support for the Jones Act, which limits foreign maritime shipping between U.S. ports to U.S.-made and -owned vessels.

Speaking Monday at a signing ceremony, Biden was critical of former President Donald Trump's "Buy American" efforts and pledged that his attempt would have "clear directives" and be a "coordinated effort."

The president added that as part of this executive order, the federal government will move to replace its fleet of vehicles with American-made electric cars over time. He also noted a push to replenish federal stockpiles, noting the ongoing pandemic.

"As this pandemic has made clear, we can never again rely on a foreign country that doesn't share our interest to protect our people in a national emergency," he said.

During the campaign, Biden proposed a Buy American plan calling for a $400 billion, four-year increase in government purchasing of U.S.-made products and services.

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"It's based on his view that we are making things in America and all of America is core to our economic strategy," an administration official told reporters Sunday, adding that the order is part of a broader effort to "strengthen supply chains" and "modernize international trade rules."

Taking questions after signing the order, Biden spoke of how he seeks for future Covid-19 relief legislation to be "bipartisan," adding that the legislative package is only at the very start of the negotiating process.

"I prefer these to be bipartisan,” he said of his early efforts. "I’m trying to generate some consensus and take some — how should I say it — the vitriol out of this."

He expressed optimism in being able to work with Republicans.

"We're going to argue like hell, I'm confident in that, believe me, I know that," Biden said. "I've been there. But I think we can do it in a way that we can get things done for the American people."

Democrats, industry groups and unions offered support for the executive order.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., called it "a big step in the right direction for American manufacturers" while Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., called the order "welcome news for American workers and businesses that desperately need federal investments for their survival." United Auto Workers President Rory Gamble called the order "a powerful statement of solidarity with our hard-working brothers and sisters." And American Maritime Partnership President Mike Roberts said his group is "very grateful for the administration's support.”

Meanwhile, FreedomWorks, a conservative advocacy group that has opposed similar efforts, criticized the initiative. Its president, Adam Brandon, said what while the order sounds nice, "at the end of the day, it's only going to raise the prices of what government buys with American taxpayer dollars" amid a widening deficit.

Biden has already signed a number of executive actions through his early days as president, including measures to address the Covid-19 pandemic, rejoin the Paris climate accord and eliminate Trump's travel restrictions mostly targeting a handful of Middle Eastern countries.

Biden also signed restrictions Monday on travel to the U.S. to mitigate Covid-19 transmission. The ban prevents most non-U.S. citizens from entry if they have recently been in South Africa, where a new strain of Covid-19 has been identified. Biden is also reinstated broader restrictions affecting travel from the United Kingdom and much of Europe, but were rescinded by President Donald Trump days before his term ended.

White House chief of staff Ron Klain said Biden will also take steps this week related to the criminal justice system, climate change, access to health care, the immigration system and border policies, as well as to reunite families separated at the border and provide equity and support for communities of color.