On April 18, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order seeking stricter enforcement of federal procurement policies and revamping the H-1B guest-worker visa program. In remarks on signing the order, Trump stated, “With this action, we are sending a powerful signal to the world: We’re going to defend our workers, protect our jobs, and finally put America first.”
For “Buy American,” the executive order:
- Instructs every agency and department to conduct comprehensive assessments aimed at cracking down on weak monitoring, enforcement, and compliance efforts in order to strengthen Buy American policies.
- Targets waivers and exceptions that have allowed foreign goods unfair advantages in U.S. government procurement.
- Orders that America’s involvement in the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Government Procurement and other trade deals be reviewed to ensure they meet the president’s standards.
- For the first time, requires that the Buy American bidding process must take into account unfair trade practices.
- Promotes American-made steel by affirming the “melted and poured” standard for steel production in the United States.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is tasked with reviewing all agency findings under this section of the executive order and providing a report to President Trump by November 23, 2017 recommending how to “close those loopholes” and identify flagrant use of unfair trade practices by foreign trading partners. An official stated that this report will serve as “a blueprint for additional executive and regulatory actions to further strengthen Buy American, as well as guide possible legislative proposals.”
For “Hire American,” the executive order:
- Calls on the executive branch to fully enforce the laws governing the entry of foreign workers into the U.S. economy to promote rising wages and more employment.
- Directs federal agencies to propose reforms to the H-1B program in order shift the program back to its original intent and prevent the displacement of American workers.
The president has particularly focused on alleged abuses of the H-1B program, asserting that, instead of allowing U.S. companies access to highly skilled foreign workers in fields where U.S. workers cannot fulfill demand, the program is being used to hire lower paid foreign workers to displace U.S. workers from entry-level jobs.
“This historic action declares that the policy of our government is to aggressively promote and use American-made goods and to ensure that American labor is hired to do the job,” Trump stated.