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NCTO Gets Behind White House’s New Transparent Buy American Process

National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO) president and CEO Kim Glas welcomed the Biden administration’s launch of new database and waiver process for government contract solicitations made under the Buy American Act.

Glas said the “transparent” waiver process for government procurement under the Buy American Act will effectively allow U.S. companies competing for government contracts to review submissions for waivers under the Buy American law. She acknowledged “the incredible work that Celeste Drake, the administration’s Made in America director, has completed on this effort.”

The new process will require federal agencies to enter proposed non-availability waivers into a digital portal for review by the Made in America Office, housed within the Office of Management and Budget, before an agency can grant a waiver to foreign entities bidding for a government contract.

“It will be an extremely helpful tool that will provide transparency to the solicitation process and give U.S. textile companies and the larger public the ability to provide feedback on proposed waivers, as well as completed waivers,” Glas said.

In a blog post on Wednesday, Drake said “we’re making agency proposals for waivers to Made-in-America laws available online at MadeInAmerica.gov for the public to view, scrutinize and assess.” The process for reviewing waivers will be progressively implemented throughout all federal agencies, beginning with smaller government agencies on Jan. 1.

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“In January, President Biden created my office and charged us with reviewing proposed waivers to ensure they are justified and align with his bold Buy American standards,” Drake wrote. “With today’s action, we’re going a step further in our commitment to transparency and accountability by making waiver proposals and the justifications behind them public for the first time since the first Made-in-America laws were enacted in 1933. We’re starting with waivers that are used when a product isn’t available domestically, and we’ll provide real-time updates on MadeinAmerica.gov from the point a proposed waiver is submitted to my office for review to when we issue our decision. My office’s decisions will also be made public.”

She said the hope is that the change will reduce the need for waivers altogether. By seeing the types of mission-critical products federal agencies are having trouble sourcing domestically, American farmers, manufacturers, ranchers and other firms can find potential new business opportunities with the government and work to fill those opportunities with Made in America products, Drake wrote.

“The U.S. textile industry has been a staunch, long-term supporter of buy American rules for federal procurement,” Glas said. “From the standpoint of U.S. national security, it is essential that America [has] vibrant manufacturing supply chains that can rapidly and effectively respond to critical demands in times of crisis. Whether it is from a military defense perspective or in relation to a healthcare emergency, such as the current Covid pandemic, the U.S. should never be reliant on offshore sources for vital materials needed to keep our citizens and nation safe.”

Buy American rules help incentivize domestic production while stimulating more investment in U.S. manufacturing, she noted, adding that the current law has a waiver mechanism that allows the federal government to purchase goods made by major global competitors in the textile and apparel sector when a mission-critical product is not made in the United States or available at a reasonable cost.

“The U.S. textile industry will continue to press for policy changes that close the loopholes that have undermined our U.S. domestic industrial base and its workforce,” Glas said. “For example, NCTO welcomed the administration’s previous proposal to increase domestic content rules for federal government purchases under Buy American rules, announced in late July.”

Now, the administration’s new waiver process and database will “only stand to benefit U.S. textile companies,” which can use the information to better understand potential business opportunities and work to provide American-made products.

“With more than $600 billion in annual procurement spending and as the single largest purchaser of consumer goods in the world, the federal government has the purchasing power to shape markets and accelerate innovation,” Drake added. “With today’s announcement, we’re taking another step forward to deliver on President Biden’s commitment to use that power to help America’s businesses compete in strategic industries and help ensure America’s workers thrive.”