Biden’s ‘Made In America’ Push and Apparel Manufacturing

President Joe Biden, who has spent his first week in office making moves to shore up some worker protections, is now pushing a message in favor of American manufacturing. 

On Monday, the president said he would issue an executive order to prioritize American manufacturing in U.S. government contracts and federal grants. The new executive order would raise the bar for products considered to be “Made in the U.S.” for the purposes of government contracts, and install a new overseer, the director of “Made-in-America” at the Office of Management and Budget, according to a statement by the White House.   

The U.S. currently spends some $600 billion annually on government contracts, the office noted. 

“The dollars the federal government spends on goods and services are a powerful tool to support American workers and manufacturers,” according to the statement. 

“The president’s executive order establishes the goals and standards necessary to use federal purchasing, and other forms of federal assistance with domestic preference requirements, as a way to proactively invest in American industry so it can continue to lead in the global marketplace,” the statement added.

The move was hailed by organizations including the textile industry lobbying group the National Council of Textile Organizations, which said it expected the measures would support domestic manufacturing. 

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“The COVID-19 crisis was exacerbated when foreign supply chains broke down leaving our frontline workers vulnerable, underscoring the vital need for America to manufacture essential medical products at home,” the group said in a statement. “We look forward to working with the Biden administration on implementing this executive order, and with members of Congress to push critical bipartisan legislation to help ensure this onshoring effort is fully realized.” 

The executive order had also pointed to loopholes in the current “Buy American” scheme for government spending, including what the office referred to as “unnecessary waivers” of requirements under the scheme. The executive order would also seek to increase transparency about permitted waivers by having them posted online by the General Services Administration. 

The NCTO has, meanwhile, been pushing for more domestic production of personal protective equipment during the pandemic, a sentiment echoed by the American Apparel & Footwear Association. On Monday, the AAFA indicated that it supported the Biden administration’s move, and also highlighted its member companies’ role in the production of military uniforms. 

“Ensuring robust application of the Berry Amendment, which is stronger than many Buy America laws, has long been a priority for AAFA and its members who make the uniforms worn by the men and women who serve in our armed forces,” said Steve Lamar, the group’s president and chief executive officer. 

“This is especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic, when these manufacturers are facing severe economic pressures while at the same time supporting a surge in our PPE needs,” he said. 

“We look forward to working with the Biden administration to ensure that these laws continue to be accurately enforced, transparently managed, fully funded, and well-implemented — and applied in a manner consistent with our international trade obligations,” he said.

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