John Bruton, former Irish Prime Minister and current EU Ambassador to the United States, urged Congress on Monday to refrain from any “Buy American” provisions in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act now headed to the Senate. Bruton expressed the EU’s concerns over such action, saying that if approved, the measure would set a “dangerous precedent” for protectionist policies. A BBC article today quotes Ambassador Bruton as saying that “Nobody will take this lying down.” And that it would take the world on the same exact path that we took in the 1930s – when, Burton believes, retaliatory protectionism caused the Great Depression to last years longer than it might have otherwise.
Ambassador Bruton shared these same thoughts when he joined us at the Council on Friday to talk about what the new administration in Washington might mean for transatlantic relations. He spoke about ways in which governments on both sides of the Atlantic can turn a series of separate problems into a chain of interlinked opportunities – particularly regarding the financial crisis of late. Bruton warned that this “Buy American” clause would sap global confidence and trigger more protectionist policies at the very time that we should be opening up and working together to turn this crisis into an opportunity for global cooperation.
FT also has an interesting blog on the “Buy American” debate here.
Update: CBS News posted a clip of our Council program with Bruton – watch here.