Davis: Fed market must be open

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) adamantly opposes the Buy American Act, offshore outsourcing restrictions and other trade policies that could limit competition in the government market.

Such policies fly in the face of the global economy, potentially denying the federal government access to products and services from industry leaders, Davis said, speaking Jan. 25 at Microsoft's Public Sector CIO Summit in Redmond, Wa.

"The federal government should be encouraging the best companies to participate in the federal market, not excluding them," Davis said.

Some lawmakers have pushed for laws that favor vendors who rely on manufacturing and services based in the United States rather than going overseas where the low cost of labor makes it possible to drive down prices without eating into profits.

The Buy American Act, for example, excludes the federal government from buying products manufactured overseas. In recent years, some lawmakers have introduced Buy American amendments that would extend the law to products made in the United States with foreign-made components.

Earlier this year, for example, Rep. Donald Manzullo (R-Ill.) proposed an amendment to the omnibus spending bill that would prohibit the Homeland Security Department from buying products in which more than half the components come from overseas.

Davis opposed that provision, and he takes a similarly dim view of limits on offshore outsourcing, saying such restrictive policies do not make sense in a global economy. "Globalization is driving everything we do in the private sector," Davis said. "It's not a trend, it's not a fad -- it's an international system that replaced the Cold War" in shaping national economies, he said.

Davis also worries about the ramifications that restrictive policies could have on the U.S. economy. By favoring companies buying components from U.S. manufacturers, "we invite retaliation from our trading partners in the one area where we have a [trade] surplus," he said.

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