Only in office for six days, President Joe Biden confirmed his career-long support for the Jones Act by specifically including the nation’s freight cabotage law in his “Buy American” executive order.
Issued Jan. 25, the order states: “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.”
SIU President Michael Sacco applauded Biden’s recognition of the importance of the Jones Act so early in his administration.
“The Jones Act provides family-supporting, quality jobs to not just mariners but all kinds of American workers in the 50 states and Puerto Rico,” stated Sacco. “President Biden stood up for American mariners as a U.S. senator and as vice president. He knows we deliver the goods around the country and the world.”
The executive order calls for federal dollars to be spent on goods made by American workers using domestic content. It also attempts to close loopholes that have allowed jobs and production to be shipped out of the country.
The Jones Act helps maintain nearly 650,000 American jobs across all U.S. 50 states and territories, and contributes $154 billion to the nation’s economic growth annually. Long backed by broad bipartisan majorities in Congress and top U.S. national security officials – including in a “Sense of Congress” in the recently enacted National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) – the Jones Act promotes the maintenance of the nation’s vitally important maritime industrial base, ensuring that American jobs are not shipped overseas and that defense capabilities and readiness aren’t outsourced to foreign nations.
“While it is no surprise that the Biden Administration supports critical American industries such as American maritime, this order is an extremely important and timely statement of the administration’s policy,” said American Maritime Partnership (AMP) President Mike Roberts. “With this order, American maritime will have greater confidence for the next several years to make investments in American vessels and maritime infrastructure while furthering environmental stewardship, efficiency and support of our homeland and national security objectives. We are very grateful for the administration’s support.”
In an announcement the day the directive was signed, the White House said in part, “With this order, President Biden is ensuring that when the federal government spends taxpayer dollars, they are spent on American-made goods…. This Executive Order fulfills President Biden’s promise to make Buy American real and close loopholes that allow companies to offshore production and jobs while still qualifying for domestic preferences.
“President Biden’s executive action will ensure that the federal government is investing taxpayer dollars in American businesses – both small and large. These investments will help create well-paid, union jobs, and build our economy back better so that everybody has a fair shot at the middle class. They will buy from all of America – including minority entrepreneurs and businesses in every region in our country. And, they will support the manufacturing capabilities and technology needed to build a clean energy future and strengthen our national security, and give our workers and companies the tools they need to compete globally for decades to come.” Reaction throughout the U.S. maritime industry was quick and overwhelmingly positive. American Maritime Officers National President Paul Doell stated, “The Jones Act is in and of itself the ideal example of ‘Buy American’ in principle and in practice.”
“We applaud President Biden and his administration for moving aggressively to grow the U.S. maritime industry. Working together, we will put America on a road to recovery and prosperity,” said Tom Crowley, chairman and CEO of SIU-contracted Crowley Maritime Corporation.
“The Jones Act is one of the nation’s strongest ‘Buy American’ laws and when you support it, you support American maritime jobs, and the entire American maritime industry, which is a critical component of our national economy and security,” said Richard Balzano, CEO, Dredging Contractors of America.
Capt. Don Marcus, president of the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots, said, “We enthusiastically applaud this decision by President Biden to reaffirm his support for the Jones Act as a component of his administration’s commitment to strong Buy America policies. His expression of support sends a clear message that the domestic maritime industry and the thousands of union men and women who build and operate these vessels are critical to the economic and military security of our nation.”
“The White House has taken unprecedented action that supports the Great Lakes economy and homeland security. This executive order creates jobs and protects the pilot light of the nation’s manufacturing base, which is the Great Lakes maritime industry,” said Jim Weakley, president, Lake Carriers’ Association.
“The Biden Administration’s strong support for the Jones Act recognizes the cornerstone of our American maritime policy, which has worked for over a century in strengthening our national and economic security,” said Adam Vokac, president, Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association. “Speaking for the 2,000 essential workers at Matson, who have worked through uncertainty and the daily realities of a pandemic to ensure that our most remote American communities and military installations in Hawaii, Alaska and Guam receive uninterrupted delivery of the food and supplies they need to sustain everyday life, hearing this support from the White House means a lot,” said Matt Cox, chairman and CEO of Seafarers-contracted Matson, Inc.
“We applaud ‘Buy American’ as it recognizes our U.S. maritime workers who are committed to serving and securing our nation’s critical supply chains,” said George W. Pasha IV of SIU-contracted Pasha Hawaii and The Pasha Group.
“President Biden’s quick, decisive action in supporting the Jones Act during his first week in office demonstrates his strong commitment to the 650,000 Americans working in the domestic maritime industry,” said James L. Henry, chairman, Transportation Institute.
“The swift issuance of this executive order emphasizing ‘Buy American’ is an affirmation of President Biden’s longstanding support of policies that promote the domestic maritime industry. We applaud this recognition of the important role our industry plays in supporting American jobs, contributing to the growth of our nation’s economy and meeting the needs of those we reliably serve,” said Tim Nolan, president and CEO of Seafarers-contracted TOTE, LLC.
The order begins, “The dollars the federal government spends on goods and services are a powerful tool to support American workers and manufacturers. Contracting alone accounts for nearly $600 billion in federal spending. Federal law requires government agencies to give preferences to American firms, however, these preferences have not always been implemented consistently or effectively. And, some of these requirements, which shape how the government preferences domestic goods and services in what it buys, have not been substantially updated since 1954, during the Eisenhower Administration. It is long overdue that the U.S. government utilizes the full force of current domestic preferences to support America’s workers and businesses, strengthening our economy, workers, and communities across the country. The President is taking action to reset the U.S. government’s longstanding approach to domestic preferences to create an approach that will remain durable for years to come and grow quality, union jobs….”