Obama seeks to reassure over 'Buy American' clause

 

PRESIDENT BARACK Obama has sought to reassure America’s trade partners that a sweeping new economic package will not lead to protectionism, despite a “Buy American” clause in the Bill he signed into law yesterday.

In an interview with Canadian television, Mr Obama said that any support of US companies in the $787 billion stimulus plan would be consistent with international trade agreements.

“I think that if you look at history, one of the most important things during a worldwide recession of the sort that we’re seeing now is that each country does not resort to ‘beggar thy neighbour’ policies, protectionist policies, that can end up further contracting world trade,” he said.

“And my expectation is, is that where you have strong US competitors who can sell products and services, that a lot of governors and mayors are going to want to try to find US equipment or services, but that we are going to abide by our World Trade Organization and Nafta obligations just as we always have.” The president signed the Bill into law yesterday at Denver’s Museum of Nature and Science, highlighting the role investment in alternative energy and other “green” projects will play in the stimulus plan.

Ahead of the signing ceremony, the White House published detailed estimates of the number of jobs the plan will save or create in each state, promising a total of 3.5 million jobs throughout the country.

The two-year stimulus package includes more than $135 billion to help states pay for education, Medicaid and infrastructure projects. Although the plan received almost no Republican support in Congress, it has been welcomed by governors from both parties who are struggling to balance budgets amid declining tax revenues.

Former Republican presidential candidate John McCain said yesterday the president had failed to deliver on his promise to break the partisan deadlock in Washington by including Republicans in his policy planning. “Republicans abused this process, and I saw it, and I didn’t like it, and I complained about it at the time,” he told the Wall Street Journal.

“So I’m not saying Republicans’ skirts are clean on this issue. I am saying that the president campaigned on the theme of changing the environment here in Washington.”

McCain said Mr Obama had promised during the campaign that negotiations on legislation between the senate and the House of Representatives would be open to the public and Bills would be online for a number of days before they were voted on.

“All of those pledges have been violated in the formulation of this Bill,” Mr McCain said.

Mr Obama says he will continue to seek Republican support for his economic policies but some of the president’s liberal supporters complain that he has already gone too far in attempting to woo conservatives.

“It’s a delicate balance, but Obama probably overdid inclusiveness and conceded too much control,” former labour secretary Robert Reich told the Washington Post.

“The strategic question that must be dominant in the White House now is: How many Republicans are really needed? The public is still overwhelmingly with the president. White House advisers are probably telling him he doesn’t need to court Republican support as ardently in the future, and shouldn’t expect it. And he should never again offer them what they want before getting firm commitments from them.”

Liberals are worried that Mr Obama, who will convene a “fiscal responsibility summit” next week to address entitlement reform, is preparing to cave in to conservative demands for a cut in social security benefits.

In Phoenix, Arizona, today, Mr Obama will announce a plan to subsidise lenders who reduce monthly mortgage payments for people who face the prospect of losing their homes.

Almost one in 10 American mortgage-holders are either behind in their payments or face foreclosure and lenders estimate that up to three million loans will be in foreclosure by the end of this year.

The administration has yet to flesh out its revised plan to bail out the financial system and White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said yesterday that the president was keeping an open mind about a second stimulus effort.