Coalition aims at Trade Agreements Act

The Coalition for Government Procurement is undertaking a study to quantify the impact of the Trade Agreements Act on federal contractors of commercial products, and is seeking contributions from its members to fund it.

The Trade Agreement Act (TAA) places limits on the ability of General Services Administration schedule contractors to supply products made in some foreign countries. The contractors must certify that they will supply products made or "substantially transformed" either in the United States or a country with which the United States has a free trade agreement.

The coalition, an industry trade group, said it believes the law reduces competition in the government market and raises the costs of supplying goods. According to a coalition e-mail message, little is gained through TAA application, while national interests including the encouragement of small businesses and cost-effective acquisition of products and services are compromised.

However, the Justice Department is prosecuting violations of the Act. On Feb. 10, Corporate Express paid a settlement of $5.02 million on charges of making false claims about whether its products complied with the act. It was the most recent office-supply company to reach a settlement with Justice in an investigation stemming from the same whistleblower reports. Other companies reaching settlements include Office Max, Office Depot, Staples and Caddo Design.

The coalition study, which LMI will conduct, will analyze the economic and public policy effects of the law on federal procurement. According to the coalition e-mail message, LMI will look at four areas of GSA schedule procurement: information technology, office supplies, scientific equipment and common hardware items.

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