A group of 28 industry associations — representing equipment manufacturers, technology businesses and trade groups — have sent a letter to congressional leaders asking that "Buy American" clauses, such as the one included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), be excluded from future economic stimulus legislation. Although it is intended to protect American jobs, the clause actually has the opposite effect, the associations say.

Citing figures from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the associations, including the Washington-based Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association, National Foreign Trade Council and U.S. Chamber of Commerce, say in their letter that, as of Nov. 11, 2009, only $1.3 billion of the $6 billion in ARRA funds for the drinking water and wastewater State Revolving Fund programs has been committed. The associations say the rest of the funds are being delayed by concerns and confusion relating to "Buy American" rules. "Despite [a] waiver process [to allow some exemptions to the Buy American clause], the end result of these 'Buy American' provisions has been to slow local governments' ability to fund and start 'shovel ready' projects," the letter states. "This is stunting job creation in the $120 billion water sector as well as other huge sectors of the U.S. economy where ARRA funding was provided."

The associations point out that, although most material used in drinking water and wastewater infrastructure projects, such as pipe and structural steel, is American-made, a large amount of specialized equipment that is manufactured in other countries also is required. "Such provisions will also create enormous unfunded administrative burdens on local officials not experienced with international trade and customs rules that will further delay procurements going forward, further impeding the swift and effective expenditure of job-creating funds," the letter states.

Read the full text of the letter.

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