Today I want to talk about a particularly difficult topic.
I say “difficult” not because I think the subject is hard to understand, but because there are a number of social forces in effect that make the topic taboo.
If I were to begin this article by saying, “I strongly endorse procurement policies that encourage buying local goods and services.” I’m fairly certain that a large segment of the population would register positive feelings and even strongly agree with that statement.
“Buy Local” campaigns have been with us for decades and their positive impact on local communities and small business are well founded.
I can readily point you to my article on Progressive Procurement which talks about the success of the Manchester City Council. The Manchester City Council made small business and local supplier programs a central consideration of their procurement program. The results of this program were so good that they have actively promoted their results.
To demonstrate the benefits of ‘buying local” here in the US, we can look at an August 25, 2017 article from reporter Mary Ortega discussing how the state of New Mexico is seeking to shift it’s spend programs towards more local business. The report, “…listed the ways shifting procurements from outside the state into New Mexico can be beneficial“. Using local coffee as an example, they speculated on the number of additional jobs this initiative could create. The article also cites the number of IT contracts lost to out-of-state contractors as a problem.
So…nothing controversial so far right???
What if I started this article by saying. “I strongly support President Trump’s “Buy American” initiative.” The mention of “President Trump” probably raises several feelings. Feelings that either endear you to my statement or repel you from it.
I’ve heard the term “Trump Effect” several times since the election and decided to do a little research on what that term meant.
For some, the term “Trump Effect” refers to an association with a form of intolerance and bigotry assigned to Trump and Trump supporters. I wanted a more scientific definitions so I searched a little more and found a definition from Samuel Vessiere. Mr. Vessiere is a social scientist who published an article in Psychology Today called “What is the Trump Effect?”
Vessiere writes that the “Trump Effect” is a combination of cognitive biases that steer us to divisions in our culture, an “us” versus “them” mindset. The psychological term Fundamental Attribution Error (FAE) is a tendency to focus on the attributes and personality traits of a single person when making sense of a problem or an event. This is how I chose to use the term “Trump Effect”.
So let’s consider for a moment how you felt about my second statement.
If you had a negative feeling about it, I submit this is the “Trump Effect” in action. You have assigned a negative sentiment to the “Buy American” initiative because you align negative feelings you have with Trump to the initiative.
Let’s take a moment and look at a similar initiative in India. The Indian Ministry of Urban Development in New Delhi recently announced that it will be aggressively and actively promoting it’s “Make in India” program. The article reports, “These initiatives will incentivize setting up manufacturing facilities in the country by increasing the volumes of procurement of rolling stock and all kinds of equipment by removing variations in the present technical norms for rolling stock and signaling equipment. This will in turn result in reduction of cost through economies of scale.”
All in all, this report for India is favorable and seems to have been well received by the media.
In contrast, in May 2017 lexology.com reporting on Trump’s April 18th 2017 Presidential order wrote, “The order could have far-reaching implications for U.S. policies on government procurement and could end up disadvantaging U.S. businesses engaged in government contracting overseas.”
Buying American “could end up disadvantaging US businesses engaged in government contracting overseas“? How in the world could that be true?
Trump’s order requires that federal agencies prioritize procurement of domestically produced goods. It also requires that agencies minimize the use of waivers (waivers are used by agencies to waive domestic procurement laws and allow them to procure items from other countries).
The lexology.com author goes on to state, “A crackdown on the use of waivers could undermine opportunities for U.S. firms to participate in procurement at home and abroad. Foreign firms also could face new obstacles to securing U.S. government procurement contracts. Interested parties should assess the impact on business interests both at home and abroad and consider engaging directly with government officials.”
In another article from the Financial Post Canada’s Foreign Minister was quoted as saying, “these buy-local rules are poor public policy, driving up prices and resulting in worse infrastructure, and harming the economy: “(It’s) political junk food — superficially appetizing, but unhealthy in the long run,” she said.”
This from the country who’s forestry division is subsidizing and underreporting it’s wood industry and blacklisting whistleblowers.
Most recently Trump has been blasted by the media because of his actions against a South Korean trade agreement. CNBC reported “Trump is considering triggering a withdrawal from a free trade agreement with South Korea, a move that could cause a fresh economic rift between allies at a moment of heightened tensions with a common foe.” A deeper dive into this story reveals that our trade deficit with South Korea has risen since the implementation of this trade agreement from $13.2Billion to $27.6Billion.
Now I know that trade agreements and our “Buy American” initiative are not directly related items, but nonetheless, these are two great examples of the “Trump Effect”.
To me, both of these are actions (buying domestic products and pulling out of unbalanced treaties) are good for America, but their association with Trump and the media’s negative feelings for Trump cause countless negative reports to be published.
I for one, want to be consistent in my assessment and regardless of how I feel for the personality associated with the act, want to place my support behind good ideas. “Buy American” is good for the US and good for US citizens. This is the same as “Make in India” is good for India and Indian citizens. In fact, every country in the world probably has some sort of domestic procurement requirement (or at least they should).
This kind of larger-scale “Buy Local” initiative is good for all countries regardless of who they are and should not give rise to an “us” versus “them” mentality. As such, I hope that you can frame your perspective on this matter not through attribution with Trump, rather through attribution with buying local.
In that context, I suspect that many more would support the “Buy American” initiative.
Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this content, please feel free to browse my previous articles and please like, share, comment, and subscribe. This helps promote my content and is greatly appreciated.