Buy American, in the World’s Great Deliberative Body

By February 5, 2009Infrastructure, Trade

From The Congressional Record, Page S528, the debate on Senator Byron Dorgan’s amendment, No. 300. It passed on a voice vote.

The amendment is as follows:

(Purpose: To clarify that the Buy American provisions shall be applied in a manner consistent with United States obligations under international agreements)
On page 430, strike lines 7 through 12 and insert the following:

(d) This section shall be applied in a manner consistent with United States obligations under international agreements.

Mr. DORGAN. I offer this amendment on behalf of myself, Mr. Baucus, Mr. Inouye, and Mr. Brown. It simply says the “Buy American” section shall be “applied in a manner consistent with United States obligations under international agreements.”

I yield the remainder of my time to Senator Brown.

Mr. BROWN. I thank the Senator from North Dakota and thank Senators BAUCUS and INOUYE for their support.

Americans are willing to reach into their pockets and spend billions of dollars for infrastructure to build bridges and highways and water and sewer and put people back to work. All that Americans want is that we provide jobs in this country–jobs, construction jobs–and that what they use for this construction, the materials, are made in America. This is WTO compliant. It follows U.S. and international global trade rules. It is a commonsense amendment.

Some people say “protectionism,” but how can you have an $800 billion trade deficit and call us protectionist? How can you have a $200-billion-a-day net outflow and say we are closing our borders? It makes sense to vote for the Dorgan amendment.

Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, I ask for 1 minute to speak in opposition to the amendment.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Arizona is recognized.

Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, what this amendment does is basically stand in direct contradiction to the amendment itself. It is impossible to say the section would be applied in a manner consistent with the U.S. obligations under international agreements and then say that anything that is manufactured in the United States, whether iron, steel, or manufactured goods will have to be subject to “Buy American.”

The reaction to this amendment has been strong and widespread, including the President of the United States, who said, “I think this would be a mistake right now.” The President said, “It is a potential source of trade wars that we cannot afford at a time when trade is sinking all over the globe.”

I yield the remainder of my time.

Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, I am pleased to express my support for the Dorgan amendment that would clarify that the Buy American provisions of this bill shall be applied in a manner that is consistent with our international trade obligations.

The original Buy American language in the bill doesn’t specifically provide an exemption for countries that provide reciprocal access for the United States in the area of government procurement. But we are obligated under international agreements to provide such a carveout. This amendment will fix this problem.

The United States has obligations to its trading partners. If we don’t live up to our commitments to other countries under trade agreements, we can’t expect them to live up to their commitments to us. The last thing that we should do in this time of economic uncertainty is fail to comply with our international obligations.

I would like to thank Senator Dorgan and Senator Baucus for working together to craft this amendment.

Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to be listed as a cosponsor on the Dorgan amendment.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

The question is on agreeing to the amendment.

The amendment (No. 300) was agreed to.

Senator McCain’s more substantive amendment prohibiting the application of Buy American requirements to programs funded by the bill was defeated 31-65.

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