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Biden signs 'Buy American' order, to replace govt fleet with electric vehicles

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    Kyodo News

Washington, United States   /   Tue, January 26, 2021   /   11:50 am
Biden signs 'Buy American' order, to replace govt fleet with electric vehicles US President Joe Biden signs an executive order related to American manufacturing in the South Court Auditorium of the White House complex on January 25, 2021 in Washington, DC. President Biden signed an executive order aimed at boosting American manufacturing and strengthening the federal government's Buy American rules. (Agence France-Presse/Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

President Joe Biden on Monday signed a "Buy American" executive order to ensure that the federal government spends taxpayers' money on US-made goods in an effort to revitalize the country's manufacturing industry.

"Under the previous administration, the federal government contract awarded directly to foreign companies went up 30 percent. That is going to change on our watch," Biden told a press conference, criticizing former President Donald Trump's "America First" policy for not doing enough to invest in the country's businesses.

Some $600 billion is spent for government procurement every year, with a federal law requiring agencies to give preferences to American firms, according to Biden.

But there have been "loopholes" that allowed tens of billions of American taxpayers' dollars to be redirected to foreign companies where the products are being made, he said.

Under the order, government agencies will be directed to close the loopholes such as by setting tougher domestic content requirements -- the amount of a product that must be made in the United States to qualify for a purchase.

"The executive action I'm signing today will not only require that companies make more of their components in America, but that the value of those components is contributing to our economy, measured by things like a number of American jobs created and/or supported," he said.

Biden also said that the United States will be committed to working with its trading partners to "modernize international trade rules, including those relating to government procurement."

He vowed to make sure that medical equipment and other essential products will be supplied domestically, saying that the coronavirus pandemic has shown that the United States "can never again be in a position where we have to rely on a foreign country that doesn't share our interest," in an apparent reference to China.

"We'll work with our allies to make sure they have resilient supply chains as well," the president added.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported that President Biden  vowed to replace the US government's fleet of roughly 650,000 vehicles with electric models as the new administration shifts its focus toward clean-energy.

"The federal government also owns an enormous fleet of vehicles, which we're going to replace with clean electric vehicles made right here in America made by American workers," Biden said Monday

Biden criticized existing rules that allow vehicles to be considered US made when purchased by the US government even if they have significant non-American made components.

Biden said he would close "loopholes" that allow key parts like engines, steel and glass to be manufactured abroad for vehicles considered US made.

The White House did not immediately answer questions about over what period Biden planned to replace current vehicles. It could cost the US $20 billion or more to replace the fleet.

Biden's "Buy America" executive order signed Monday does not direct the purchase of electric vehicles.

As of 2019, the US government owned 645,000 vehicles that were driven 4.5 billion miles consuming 375 million gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel, according to the General Services Administration (GSA). The U.S. government spent $4.4 billion on federal vehicle costs in 2019, the GSA said.

Of US-government vehicles, just 3,215 were electric vehicles as of July 2020, GSA said.

During the campaign, Biden vowed to "make a major federal commitment to purchase clean vehicles for federal, state, tribal, postal, and local fleets."

He also vowed to create 1 million new jobs in the "American auto industry, domestic auto supply chains, and auto infrastructure, from parts to materials to electric vehicle charging stations."

Biden backs new consumers rebates to replace old, less-efficient vehicles with newer electric vehicles and incentives for manufacturers to build or retool factories to assemble EVs and parts.

Biden vows to build 550,000 EV charging stations and spend more in clean energy research.