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Washington: House Passes Berry Amendment Extension Act

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed H.R. 3116, the Berry Amendment Extension Act, which would bring the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) under the purview of the Berry Amendment and its requirement that covered products, including textiles and apparel, contain 100-percent U.S. inputs. The bill now must be taken up and passed by the Senate in order to become law.

The Berry Amendment dates back to 1941 and requires that the Department of Defense purchase certain products -- such as garments and other textiles, specialty steel and food -- that are deemed essential to military preparedness.

The Berry Amendment Extension Act would apply only to the Transportation Security Administration and the U.S. Coast Guard because the U.S. government is bound by the World Trade Organization Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA), which bars provisions such as the Berry Amendment unless the United States exercises an option to exempt agencies that it deems critical to national security, as it has done in the case of those two agencies. However, the act would provide the option for the Obama administration to exempt other DHS agencies from the GPA as well. Included among those other agencies are Customs and Border Protection, the Secret Service, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Immigration and Citizenship Enforcement.

The bill -- sponsored by Rep. Larry Kissell, D-N.C., and co-sponsored by Rep. Howard Coble, R-N.C., and 68 other congressmen -- follows the enactment of the Kissell Amendment, introduced by Kissell to provide for textile jobs creation under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Auggie Tantillo, executive director of the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition (AMTAC), applauded the passage of the act by the House, saying: "Congressman Kissell's 'buy-U.S.' legislation will provide a shot in the arm to America's economy that has suffered more than 5.6 million U.S. manufacturing jobs losses in the last decade. For every $10 million spent annually under H.R. 3116, the U.S. government will create or save 500 badly needed U.S. manufacturing and other jobs."

Cass Johnson, president of the National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO), praised Kissell for his efforts on behalf of U.S. textile workers, stating: "We applaud and thank Congressman Kissell for his leadership and for continuing his aggressive push to ensure that textile workers in his district and around the country are given new opportunities in Washington D.C. In May, Congressman Kissell also introduced another job creating textile bill, H.R. 5393, the Textile Security and Enforcement Act (TESA). TESA will also create U.S. jobs because it cracks down on textile customs fraud from China and Pakistan, which has taken production away from the textile supply chain in the Western Hemisphere and has cost the jobs of tens of thousands of textile workers."

NCTO further urged passage of the legislation by the Senate and the implementation by the Obama administration of its option to apply the law's provisions to all DHS agencies.

September 21, 2010