Canadian Manufacturing

Amid stimulus talks, Biden signs order to help factories

Biden's order would modify the rules for the Buy American program, making it harder for contractors to qualify for a waiver and sell foreign-made goods to federal agencies.

January 25, 2021  by Associated Press

Seeking to galvanize the economy and help factories, President Joe Biden signed an executive order on Jan. 25 to boost government buying from U.S. manufacturers as he begins the negotiation process with Congress over a $1.9 trillion stimulus package.

The executive order is among a flurry of moves by Biden during his first full week to publicly show he’s taking swift action to heal an ailing economy. Biden’s aides have hammered the talking points that the country is in a precarious spot and relief is urgently needed.

But Jan. 25’s order will likely take 45 days or longer to make its way through the federal bureaucracy, during which time wrangling with Congress could produce a new aid package. That would be a follow-up to the roughly $4 trillion previously approved to tackle the economic and medical fallout from the coronavirus.

Biden’s team held a call on Jan. 24 to outline the stimulus plan with at least a dozen senators, while the president has also privately talked with lawmakers.

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An administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations, said Jan. 24’s call was constructive and gave Biden’s team a chance to explain details of the proposal to lawmakers. Among the features of the stimulus plan are a national vaccination program, aid to reopen schools, direct payments of $1,400 to individuals and financial relief for state and local governments.

Biden’s executive order will modify the rules for the Buy American program, making it harder for contractors to qualify for a waiver and sell foreign-made goods to federal agencies. It also changes rules so that more of a manufactured good’s components must originate from U.S. factories. America-made goods would also be protected by an increase in the government’s threshold and price preferences, the difference in price over which the government can buy a foreign product.

It’s an order that channels Biden’s own blue-collar persona and his promise to use the government’s market power to support its industrial base, an initiative that former President Donald Trump also attempted with executive actions and import taxes.

Past presidents have also promised to revitalize manufacturing as a source of job growth and achieved mixed results. The government helped save the automotive sector after the 2008 financial crisis, but the number of factory jobs has been steadily shrinking over the course of four decades.


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