On January 25, 2021, President Biden signed the Ensuring the Future Is Made in All of America by All of America’s Workers (Made in America) Executive Order, which not only directs that federal government purchases and procurement go to American businesses and workers, but also calls out the Jones Act for specifically endorsing the nation’s vessels, ports, and merchant crews. The Made in America Executive Order, in conjunction with the newly signed 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), bolster the Jones Act’s relevance and legitimacy a hundred years after it was first signed into law.
A release put out by the White House states that the Made in America Executive Order:
Reiterates the President’s strong support for the Jones Act. The President will continue to be a strong advocate for the Jones Act and its mandate that only U.S.-flag vessels carry cargo between U.S. ports, which supports American production and America’s workers. With the signing of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, the Jones Act has also been affirmed as an opportunity to invest in America’s workers as we build offshore renewable energy, in line with the President’s goals to build our clean energy future here in America.
While the NDAA clarifies that the Jones Act will be extended to offshore wind developments, the Made in America Executive Order, through its commitment to support American businesses and workers, further strengthens the Jones Act’s mission. The Made in America Executive Order specifies that “Made in America Laws include laws requiring domestic preference for maritime transport, including the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 (Public Law 66-261), also known as the Jones Act.”
The order is intended to increase the oversight of potential waivers of Made in America Laws, including Jones Act waivers. While waivers are frowned upon, the order lays out a process to consolidate waiver review by creating a central agency, the Made in America Office, to assess waiver requests and curtail unnecessary waivers. In order to obtain a waiver, parties must provide proper justification to the Made in America Office. The newly appointed Made in America Director must notify parties requesting a waiver of its decision within 15 business days. The agency will also direct the General Services Administration to make information related to whether specific waivers have been granted available on a public website.
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