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Textile Coalition Seeks Expansion Of Buy America

James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

A coalition of US textile manufacturers and organized labor is urging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to incorporate expanded "Buy America" provisions in the economic stimulus package currently working its way through Congress.

The organizations said the US manufacturing sector "has been bled by trade policies" over the past eight years that have resulted in a $3.5 trillion trade deficit and a loss of 4 million manufacturing jobs.

In a letter to Pelosi, the coalition members said "it is imperative to expand and strengthen statutes and regulations that mandate the purchase of US produced goods and services." They called for expanded "Buy America" provisions in procurement of products for highway transportation and for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The coalition notes that the Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982 forbids the Secretary of Transportation to obligate any funds to carry out construction under that act  unless the steel and iron and manufactured products being used are  produced in the United States. The same requirements apply to some $30 billion to $40 billion funneled annually to states by the Federal Highway Administration for construction of roads, bridges and relate projects. The coalition says Congress has broad flexibility under existing laws to expand such requirements beyond iron and steel components to include such things as machinery, textiles and other raw materials used in highway construction.

The coalition also is seeking expansion of the so-called Berry Amendment's "Buy America" provisions covering defense appropriations and making a similar requirement apply to DHS procurement. The coalition contends that applying the Berry Amendment to DHS procurement would not require any new appropriations, but it would create US jobs right away.

The coalition comprises the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition, the National Council of Textile Organizations, the National Textile Association, the United States Industrial Fabrics Institute and UNITE HERE!.

January 27, 2009