Donald Trump announced a new executive order directing government agencies to “buy American and hire American,” but immediately faced accusations of hypocrisy for failing to do so himself.
Mr Trump signed the “Buy American and Hire American” executive order on Tuesday during a trip to the Snap-on-Tools headquarters in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
“With this action we are sending a powerful signal to the world,” Mr Trump told those gathered. “We are going to defend our workers, protect our jobs, and finally put America first.”
The executive order does not have the power to change existing legislation, but instead directs government agencies and departments to review their policies and suggest ways to use more American products and hire more American workers.
The “hire American” portion of the order instructs the departments of Labour, Justice, Homeland Security and State to look for evidence of visa abuse on the part of employers and fraud on the part of workers.
The order specifically singles out the HB-1 visas, which allow US employers to temporarily hire skilled, foreign workers.
Mr Trump on Tuesday accused employers of exploiting these visas to hire foreign workers and undercut American workers’ wages. He called on the four departments to reform their systems to insure that H1B visas are given only to the “most skilled” or “highest-paid” applicants.
His order, however, does not mention the H-2B visa, which allows US employers to temporarily hire foreign, non-agricultural workers for seasonal employment.
Mr Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate used these visas to hire 64 low-wage, foreign employees last winter. Between 2013 and 2015, Mar-a-Lago hired 250 seasonal workers, according to the US Department of Labour. Four of them were American citizens.
The “Buy American” section of the order seeks to maximise the amount of American-made goods used in federally funded projects. Among other things, it requires each agency and department of the government to review their use of waivers and exceptions that allow for the use of non-American goods. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross will review the agencies’ findings and report back to the President within 220 days.
“We are finally standing up for our workers and our companies,” Mr Trump said on Tuesday. “...No longer are we going to allow foreign companies to cheat our producers and our workers out of government contracts.”
Mr Trump’s own line of products is manufactured in 12 different countries, a Washington Post investigation shows. Trump Home furniture, for example, is made partially in Turkey and Germany. Trump vodka is distilled in the Netherlands. Some Trump sport coats are made in India.
Despite Mr Trump’s previous claim that the country is “raping” America, his company’s eyeglasses are made in China.
Senior administration officials defended Mr Trump’s new policies as being inspired by his life spent in the private sector.
“He spent his life in private business, and he understands the private sector better than anyone, and now he’s leveraging that knowledge and experience to go to work on behalf of the American people,” one official said. “And I think that’s a very inspirational message.”
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