On July 15, 2019, President Donald Trump signed an executive order, Maximizing Use of American-Made Goods, Products, and Materials, to further promote the principles underlying the Buy American Act of 1933. In remarks to the press, the president stated that “Early in my presidency, I ordered the federal government to live by two very simple but very crucial rules: Buy American and hire American. You know, it’s called ‘America First,’ folks.” He added, “The philosophy of my administration is simple: If we can build it, grow it, or make it in the United States, we will.”

This executive order continues the Trump administration’s effort to strengthen the standards used and applied under the Buy American Act. In this executive order, Trump directs the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council (FARC) to consider tightening the preference requirements for federal acquisitions and when foreign products can be used, highlighting that his administration “shall enforce the Buy American Act to the greatest extent permitted by law.” While the order does not impact current government procurement activity, it directs FARC to undertake a review and “consider proposing for notice and public comment” amendments to the Federal Acquisition Regulations that materials would be considered to be foreign in origin if:

  • for iron and steel end products, the cost of foreign iron and steel used in such iron and steel end products constitutes 5 percent or more of the cost of all the products used in such iron and steel end products; or
  • for all other end products, the cost of the foreign products used in such end products constitutes 45 percent or more of the cost of all the products used in such end products.

Currently, a product can be of 50 percent foreign origin and still be considered U.S.-made if it is not a commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) product. If a proposed rule is prepared for public comment, the FARC review could significantly raise these U.S.-origin content requirements. The executive order instructs FARC to undertake this review and consider proposing a rulemaking notice within 180 days (on or about January 12, 2020).

This is the third executive order signed by President Trump to enhance and revise certain requirements under the Buy American Act. On April 18, 2017, he signed an executive order seeking stricter enforcement of federal procurement policies and revamping the H-1B guest-worker visa program (see Trump and Trade Update dated April 17, 2017) and on January 31, 2019, the president signed an order directing federal agencies administering certain infrastructure programs to “encourage recipients of new Federal financial assistance awards pursuant to a covered program to use, to the greatest extent possible, iron and aluminum” as well as other manufactured products made in the United States (see Thompson Hine International Trade Update dated February 19, 2019).