Friday, February 13, 2009

Obama Backs Off ‘Buy American’

(Politico – Carol E. Lee)

President Barack Obama’s visit to a Caterpillar manufacturing plant Thursday did more than focus attention on his efforts to create working-class jobs, as administration officials hoped. It provided the perfect backdrop to highlight Obama’s change of heart on controversial “Buy American” provisions that require government-funded projects to use only U.S.-made materials.

The issue has forced Obama to dance between rival camps of supporters in the debate over his economic stimulus bill. Labor unions wanted a strong Buy American provision in the plan; U.S. trade partners and companies with significant overseas exports, such as Caterpillar, oppose the proviso.

It’s unclear exactly where the president, who during the campaign ran “Buy American, Vote Obama” ads in labor-heavy states, currently stands on the issue. But citing the economic crisis, he now says he supports a watered-down version of the Buy American provisions contained in the House and Senate stimulus bills.

Obama said his reversal was prompted by concern that tough Buy American requirements ultimately could spark international trade wars.

And on Thursday, he visited Caterpillar Inc., the world’s largest mining and construction equipment manufacturer – a company that couldn’t be more American if it manufactured apple pie but whose chief executive led the attack on Buy American mandates in the stimulus bill. Read more here.