10 WTO members air concerns about Trump ‘Buy American’ order

They urge Washington to continue honouring the trade body's ``Government Procurement Agreement.''

GENEVA — Israel, China and Taiwan joined a number of US allies at the World Trade Organization (WTO) to express concerns over a Trump administration executive order that calls on US authorities to “maximize” use of American-made goods, products and materials in government procurement.

The 10 WTO members, also including the European Union, Canada and Japan, also urged Washington to continue honouring the trade body’s “Government Procurement Agreement” that binds the United States and 45 other countries – mostly EU members – to open government procurement markets to foreign competition and make them more transparent.

A Geneva trade official familiar with the case said the group of WTO members took issue with the “Buy American and Hire American” executive order signed in April that lays out a policy aimed to “maximize” use of US-made items in government procurement and assistance awards. The official spoke only on condition of anonymity as she was not authorized to speak publicly about the case.

In the closed-door session, the EU argued that “more stringent Buy American policies” were likely to increase costs and delays, with “no net benefit” in job creation, the official said.

The concerns could amount to a signal to US officials who, under the terms of the executive order, are expected to report by Nov. 15 to the US Commerce Department and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget about the implementation of the “Buy American Laws.”

John Newham, chairman of the WTO committee on government procurement, said the US provided “useful information” about the executive order, without elaborating. The process was “ongoing” until the November report, he said, adding that some countries were likely to have aired their concerns directly in Washington.

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