Monday, 2 February 2009

Buy American - get-out clause

H.R. 1, the stimulus bill passed by the House of Representatives which you can read at this excellent site, actually contains the following text:


(a) IN GENERAL. None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used for a project for the construction, alteration, maintenance, or repair of a public building or public work unless all of the iron and steel used in the project is produced in the United States. 

(b) EXCEPTIONS. Subsection (a) shall not apply in any case in which the head of the Federal department or agency involved finds that
(1) applying subsection (a) would be inconsistent with the public interest; 

Therefore, a willing administration official would be able to exempt all purchases of iron and steel from the Buy American clause by stating either that the public interest is served by buying the cheapest or commercially most attractive materials available; or that protectionism in general is not in the public interest.

The bill goes on to require that anyone using this clause needs to publish a letter explaining the basis for their public interest exception, but that shouldn't be a problem - except politically. But it allows the political flak - if required - to be deferred until a later date.

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