Loopholes and weaknesses in President Donald Trump's much-touted "Buy American, Hire American" executive order signed Tuesday abound, critics note, and the order is only looking more flimsy at it meets push-back not just from progressives but also from the companies the order is purportedly intended to boost: manufacturing firms.
Most notably, the directive to use solely U.S. steel to construct oil and gas pipelines—an oft-repeated Trump promise—is meeting strong push-back from Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), the company behind the infamous Dakota Access Pipeline.
"The impacts of such a restriction are expected to severely delay project schedules, drive up costs, decrease availability, and lower quality," the company complained to the Commerce Department this month, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Trump previously also vowed that Keystone XL, the other controversial pipeline project that Trump revived after his election, would be made of American steel. But Keystone XL maker TransCanada subsequently threatened to sue the U.S. under NAFTA if it was forced to use only U.S. steel, and the Trump administration swiftly relented and granted it permission to use foreign-made metals.
The rejection of Trump's order from ETP is particularly noteworthy given the close ties between ETP's CEO, Kelcy Warren, and Trump.
Warren is a "GOP mega-donor," as the Morning Notes puts it, and Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings this week showed that Warren donated $250,000 to Trump's inauguration. Shortly thereafter, the Trump administration granted ETP the final easement that would allow it to finish construction of the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline.
Trump furthermore used to own stock in ETP, and the company's stock skyrocketed after Trump's election. Warren also celebrated Trump's victory in November, correctly predicting that it meant the embattled pipeline would be constructed.
Indeed, simply glancing at Trump's track record of giving in to corporate demands makes it appear highly unlikely that the administration would force ETP to abide by its order regarding U.S.-made steel.
And even before the industry push-back, Trump's "Buy American" order was riddled with loopholes and special allowances for multinational corporations, say critics.
"As with Trump’s campaign promises, the executive order is full of loopholes that are designed to protect Wall Street interests and multinational corporations—at the expense of American workers and communities," wrote The Nation's John Nichols. "The biggest of those loopholes involves the fact that dozens of countries currently get waivers that allow them to avoid following 'Buy American' policies."
"If President Trump is serious about strengthening Buy American and delivering on his pledges to create more American manufacturing jobs, he could immediately withdraw with 60 days written notice from World Trade Organization procurement rules with no penalty and invoke his executive authority to reverse all 59 trade pact Buy American waivers," said Lori Wallach, president of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch.
And so as Trump on Thursday gathers with steel CEOs for a photo-op as he signs a memo urging the Commerce Department to investigate foreign imports of steel, his campaign promise to force companies to use U.S.-made materials is still looking increasingly dubious.