President Joe Biden vowed on Monday to leverage the purchasing power of the U.S. government, the world’s biggest single buyer of goods and services, to strengthen domestic manufacturing and create markets for new technologies, Reuters reports.
The Democratic president signed an executive order aimed at closing loopholes in existing “Buy American” provisions, which apply to about a third of the $600 billion in goods and services the federal government buys each year. The order will make any waivers more transparent and create a senior White House role to oversee the process.
“I don’t buy for one second that the vitality of American manufacturing is a thing of the past,” Biden told reporters before signing the order. “American manufacturing was the arsenal of democracy in World War Two and it must be part of the engine of American prosperity now.”
Biden reiterated plans announced on the campaign trail to replace the fleet of federal cars with U.S.-made electric vehicles.
Revitalizing the manufacturing sector, which accounts for about 12% of the U.S. economy, is a key part of Biden’s broader push to drive up wages, create more union jobs, support minority-owned businesses and strengthen U.S. supply chains, White House officials say.
Boosting U.S. manufacturing has proven a vexing challenge for previous administrations, including that of former President Donald Trump.
“America can’t sit on the sidelines in the race to the future. Our competitors aren’t waiting,” Biden said. “To ensure the future is made in America, we need to win not just the jobs of today, but the jobs and industries of tomorrow.”
Manufacturers have been attracted by lower wages and weaker environmental standards in China and other countries in recent decades. This exodus has resulted in critical gaps that have been laid bare during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as the making of medical equipment.
China overtook the United States as the world’s top manufacturer in 2010, and was responsible for 28% of global output in 2018, according to United Nations data.
The AFL-CIO federation of trade unions welcomed Biden’s order.
“This order is a good first step in revitalizing U.S. manufacturing, which Trump’s policies failed to do over the past four years,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said.