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Biden Administration’s ‘Buy American’ Executive Order Reiterates Support of the Jones Act

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden signs executive orders in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, after his inauguration as the 46th President of the United States, U.S., January 20, 2021. REUTERS/Tom Brenner/File Photo

Biden Administration’s ‘Buy American’ Executive Order Reiterates Support of the Jones Act

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 10588
January 25, 2021

President Joe Biden is set to sign an Executive Order, titled Strengthening ‘Buy American’ Provisions, Ensuring Future of America is Made in America by All of America’s Workers, ensuring that the federal government is investing taxpayer dollars in American manufacturers, businesses, and workers.

Notably for the domestic maritime industry, the Executive Order explicitly reiterates President Biden’s strong support of the Jones Act, the 100-year-old law that requires goods shipped between U.S. ports to be transported on ships that are built, owned, and operated by United States citizens or permanent residents. It also gives a nod to the recently passed National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which the American Maritime Partnership recently described as the most consequential maritime legislation enacted in years.

“The President will continue to be a strong advocate for the Jones Act and its mandate that only U.S.-flag vessels carry cargo between U.S. ports, which supports American production and America’s workers,” according to a summary of the Executive Ordered, released today by The White House. “With the signing of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, the Jones Act has also been affirmed as an opportunity to invest in America’s workers as we build offshore renewable energy, in line with the President’s goals to build our clean energy future here in America.”

The American Maritime Partnership (AMP) called the Executive Order extremely important and timely. The order has also attracted broad support from many major maritime and offshore business leaders, stakeholders and industry trade groups.

“While it is no surprise that the Biden Administration supports critical American industries such as American Maritime, this Order is an extremely important and timely statement of the Administration’s policy,” said American Maritime Partnership President Mike Roberts. “With this Order, American Maritime will have greater confidence for the next several years to make investments in American vessels and maritime infrastructure while furthering environmental stewardship, efficiency and support of our homeland and national security objectives. We are very grateful for the Administration’s support.”

According to the AMP, the the U.S. maritime industry employs nearly 650,000 Americans across all U.S. 50 states and territories, and contributes $154 billion to the nation’s economic growth annually. The Jones Act fleet also now consists of some 40,000 vessels.

The Executive Order, which is expected to be signed today, comes after Pete Buttigieg, President Joe Biden’s pick for U.S. Secretary of Transportation, expressed his support for the Jones Act and its role in creating jobs and supporting the U.S. shipbuilding industrial base during his confirmation hearing last week.

The U.S. Transportation Department issued a statement in strong support of order.

“We look forward to implementing President Biden’s Made in America executive order that will ensure transportation-related capital purchases, equipment, and supplies are acquired when available.  In addition, we will also ensure that the President’s strong support of the Jones Act is realized so that only U.S.-flag vessels carry cargo between U.S. ports.  With these goals in mind, the Department stands ready to help President Biden create good-paying, union jobs, and strengthen the middle class,” the Department said.

The AMP’s support of the Executive Order is also shared by more than a dozen U.S. maritime industry business leaders and trade groups. Meanwhile, the EO was opposed by the Cato Institute, a Washington-based think tank and one of the more vocal proponents of the Jones Act and protectionist policies in general. .

Supporters so far include American Maritime Officers, American Waterways Operators, Crowley Maritime, Dredging Contractors of America, Federal Pilots of Louisiana, Florida Maritime Partnership, Great Lakes Maritime Task Force, Interlake Maritime Services, International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots, Kirby Corporation, Lake Carriers’ Association, Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association, Matson Inc., Offshore Marine Service Association, Pasha Hawaii and The Pasha Group, Seafarers International Union, Shipbuilders Council of America, Transportation Institute, TOTE, and the Wisconsin Domestic Maritime Coalition. Some quotes from the organizations are provided below:

“The Jones Act represents multiple billions in private capital investment, sustains thousands of American jobs in the shipping, shipbuilding and service and supply sectors nationwide, and serves legitimate and lasting national security interests with vessels and skilled, reliable civilian American merchant mariners — assets the Department of Defense relies on for military support services in distant military emergencies,” said Paul Doell, National President, American Maritime Officers. “The Jones Act is in and of itself the ideal example of ‘Buy American’ in principle and in practice.”

“As the national trade association for the American tugboat, towboat and barge industry, The American Waterways Operators commends President Biden for reaffirming his strong support for the Jones Act in the opening days of his administration. The Jones Act is the foundation for every dollar AWO member companies invest in American-built vessels and every job they provide for Americans across the country. We look forward to working with the President and his team to strengthen the American maritime industry, which is crucial to our national, homeland and economic security,” said Jennifer Carpenter, President and CEO, The American Waterways Operators.

Decades of experience – including when then-Vice President Biden oversaw the 2009 stimulus bill’s implementation – shows that Buy American policies not only lead to project delays, foreign retaliation, and higher costs (for U.S. companies and taxpayers), but also are often just plain incompatible with the realities of multinational investment and 21st century global supply chains. Although the Biden proposal’s devil will be in its details, the President’s statements today show that he hasn’t learned these lessons,” said Scott Lincicome, a Cato Institute senior fellow.

“We applaud President Biden and his administration for moving aggressively to grow the U.S. maritime industry. Working together we will put America on a road to recovery and prosperity,” said Tom Crowley, Chairman and CEO, Crowley Maritime Corporation.

“The Jones Act is one of the nation’s strongest ‘Buy American’ laws and when you support it, you support American maritime jobs, and the entire American maritime industry, which is a critical component of our national economy and security. We are very pleased to see the Biden Administration’s support of ‘Buy American’ and Jones Act policies with this Executive Order,” said Richard Balzano, CEO, Dredging Contractors of America.

“On behalf of all those that call the Mississippi River and its tributaries home, a staggering reach that encompasses over 40% of this great nation, the Associated Federal Pilots and Docking Masters of Louisiana thanks the Biden Administration for their support of the Jones Act – a key driver of job creation in our communities and pillar for national and homeland security,” said Greg Bush, President, The Federal Pilots of Louisiana.

“The success of the domestic maritime industry is enabled by the Jones Act, which allows Florida Maritime Partnership member organizations the ability to leverage innovative technologies, focused investments and dedicated trade routes to create a significant, positive economic impact to the markets we serve. President Biden has long been an ardent supporter of the Jones Act and we commend his Executive Order prioritizing ‘Buy American and recognizing the importance of the domestic maritime industry to U.S. economic, national and homeland security interests,” said Christopher Smith, President, Florida Maritime Partnership.

“U.S. Great Lakes commercial maritime supports 147,000 jobs and nearly $10.5 billion in salaries. The new Administration’s unequivocal support for the Jones Act is welcomed and paramount to the men and women ashore and afloat that are the foundation of American manufacturing, infrastructure, agriculture and energy needs,” said John Clemons, President, Great Lakes Maritime Task Force.

“Our Great Lakes maritime industry is buoyed by the incredible support from the White House and the Biden Administration making it known – in the first days in office – that they are fully committed to American Maritime, a backbone of our great country for more than a century. We share that same inspired commitment and are proud to be building a new ship for our U.S. flag fleet that will sail in 2022,” said Mark W. Barker, President, Interlake Maritime Services.

“We enthusiastically applaud this decision by President Biden to reaffirm his support for the Jones Act as a component of his Administration’s commitment to strong Buy America policies. His expression of support sends a clear message that the domestic maritime industry and the thousands of union men and women who build and operate these vessels are critical to the economic and military security of our nation,” said Captain Don Marcus, President, International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots.

“We look to be a leader on America’s path to a low carbon future, whether through new vessels to support offshore wind generation, or new low-carbon technologies to move America’s cargo. The unequivocal support of the administration reassures us as we contemplate these investments,” said David Grzebinski, CEO, Kirby Corporation.

“The White House has taken unprecedented action that supports the Great Lakes economy and homeland security. This Executive Order creates jobs and protects the pilot light of the nation’s manufacturing base, which is the Great Lakes maritime industry,” said Jim Weakley, President, Lake Carriers’ Association.

“The Biden Administration’s strong support for the Jones Act recognizes the cornerstone of our American maritime policy, which has worked for over a century in strengthening our national and economic security. We applaud these early efforts and look forward to working with the President on creating future opportunities to support and grow the domestic maritime industry that generates numerous middle class, union jobs for the United States Merchant Marine,” said Adam Vokac, President, Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association.

“Speaking for the 2,000 essential workers at Matson, who have worked through uncertainty and the daily realities of a pandemic to ensure that our most remote American communities and military installations in Hawaii, Alaska and Guam receive uninterrupted delivery of the food and supplies they need to sustain everyday life, hearing this support from the White House means a lot,” said Matt Cox, Chairman and CEO, Matson, Inc. “Matson is a proud U.S. carrier with a long history of service to our country. We take our role seriously and appreciate knowing that we have the support of the White House.”

As the trade association for the Jones Act companies that construct and service offshore energy infrastructure, OMSA applauds the Administration for including strong statements in support of the Jones Act—especially support for the Jones Act as it relates to offshore wind energy construction,” said Aaron Smith, President and CEO of the Offshore Marine Service Association. “The Administration is also correct when it says that we must close loopholes in the laws that protect American workers from unfair international competition. OMSA completely agrees with this statement and hopes that we can work with the Administration and Congress to close Jones Act and visa loopholes that allow foreign vessels and foreign workers to engage in U.S. offshore wind farm activity. We are confident that with the right protections, we can ensure U.S. wind power produces U.S. jobs.

“We applaud ‘Buy American’ as it recognizes our U.S. maritime workers who are committed to serving and securing our nation’s critical supply chains,” said George W. Pasha, IV of Pasha Hawaii and The Pasha Group.

“The Jones Act has been the bedrock foundation of America’s maritime policy for over 100 years, and has been supported by every Presidential administration since Woodrow Wilson signed it into law. Given President Biden’s lifelong commitment to working families, we never doubted his support for the Jones Act and the hundreds of thousands of mariners and workers in related industries who depend on it for their livelihoods. We are especially pleased to see him make the Jones Act part of his first 100 days,” said Michael Sacco, President, Seafarers International Union.

“The ‘Buy American’ Executive Order issued today by President Biden will prioritize American innovation, ingenuity and craftsmanship that are pivotal to our national and economic security. Essential national and domestic security industries like the U.S. shipyard sector, and the maritime defense industrial base, will grow stronger because of the actions taken today, ensuring the future of America is made in America,” said Matthew Paxton, President, Shipbuilders Council of America.

“President Biden’s quick, decisive action in supporting the Jones Act during his first week in office demonstrates his strong commitment to the 650,000 Americans working in the domestic maritime industry,” said James L. Henry, Chairman, Transportation Institute.

“The swift issuance of this Executive Order emphasizing ‘Buy American’ is an affirmation of President Biden’s long-standing support of policies that promote the domestic maritime industry. We applaud this recognition of the important role our industry plays in supporting American jobs, contributing to the growth of our nation’s economy and meeting the needs of those we reliably serve,” said Tim Nolan, President and CEO, TOTE, LLC.

“We knew from his campaign statements and history that President Biden supported the Jones Act, but it is very encouraging to see it highlighted in an Executive Order during the first week of his presidency. There is no precedent for this level of presidential support so early in an administration. That’s great for Wisconsin, with its vibrant Jones Act shipping and shipbuilding industry,” said Mark Ruge, President, Wisconsin Domestic Maritime Coalition.

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