Buy American policy lives on

Opponents of the Obama administration’s so-called Buy American provisions are working furiously this summer under a Canadian deadline, trying to convince legislators to do something about the protectionist measure before a full-fledged trade war erupts.

WASHINGTON — Opponents of the Obama administration’s so-called Buy American provisions are working furiously this summer under a Canadian deadline, trying to convince legislators to do something about the protectionist measure before a full-fledged trade war erupts.

Their efforts come despite recent Environmental Protection Agency directives reminding local utilities that they need not concern themselves with NAFTA obligations as the federal watchdog also issued stern warnings about Buy American non-compliance.

“We’re all under the Canadian clock,” Dawn Christof-Champney, president of the Waste and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association, said Monday.

Champney was referring to the 120-day deadline issued by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities on June 6. It gives the U.S. 120 days to exempt Canada from the Buy American provisions in President Barack Obama’s $787 billion economic stimulus package, or Canadian municipalities will begin shutting out U.S. firms from bidding on local contracts.

Various stakeholders opposed to Buy American, including blue-chip American corporations, recently made submissions to the White House Office of Management and Budget, or OMB, the department handling the stimulus package. They urged a reversal of the policy.

“We all poured most of our energy into submitting our views,” Champney said.

Submissions in hand, the Obama administration will now write the final rules on how to implement Buy American.

A spokesman for the OMB said recently the legislation is expected to be tweaked, “but to what extent and how significantly, that remains to be seen.”

Making matters worse for some water companies are the EPA’s directives last week that further confounded local utilities and small businesses trying to obey the Buy American regulations.

The EPA made it official that its guideline on Buy American requires “substantial transformation” in the U.S. from the component parts used for any water-related infrastructure project.

To help local utilities determine whether a good has been “substantially transformed” enough to pass the test, the federal agency provided a series of questions.

Even more distressingly from a Canadian standpoint, the EPA reminded local water utilities that there’s little chance they need to worry about NAFTA, the North American Free Trade agreement.

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