Published: Fri, April 21, 2017
U.S. | By Monique Johnson

In business dealings, Donald Trump has ignored 'Buy American' ethos

Trump signed the order during his visit to the Snap-on Tools headquarters in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Officials also said government procurement portions of existing trade agreements would be reviewed to see whether USA companies get the same chance to sell products to the governments of US trading partners that foreign firms get in Washington.

Trump said his administration is going to enforce Hire American rules that are created to protect jobs and wages of workers in the United States.

Critics say the program has been hijacked by staffing companies that use the visas to recruit foreigners - often from India - who will work for less than Americans. It asks for a review of waiver use and seeks better enforcement of laws regarding buying American made products by the government and American iron and steel products backed by federal money.

With the order, Trump is formally calling for the secretary of commerce and the USA trade representative to assess "the impacts of all US free trade agreements" as part of the new plan.

Reforming the H-1B visa system was one of the major election promises of Trump.

At Snap-on, President Trump said reforming the H-1B program will send "a powerful signal to the world: We're going to defend our workers, protect our jobs and finally put America first".

"From a Snap-on point of view, we think the seminal issue of our time is the upskilling of the American work force", he said. "It's too little, too late", said US Senator Dick Durbin. But Trump says companies exploit the system to the disadvantage of American workers.

Tech companies have been bracing for Trump to make changes to the H-1B programme.

Congress is considering several bills to overhaul the visa program. The government admits 85,000 immigrants under the visa program each year.

There was a significant drop, at least 16 percent, in the applications for the H1B visas for highly-skilled workers this year than in 2016.

And of the three outsourcing firms called out above, a senior government official said, "Those three companies are companies that have an average wage for H-1B visas between $60,000 and $65,000". They said the executive order calls on those four departments to see to it that H-1B visas are rewarded to the most skilled or highest-paid applicants.

Trump and other critics of the program say it is abused by those Indian firms, who - they claim - flood the visa lottery with applications and then send workers to the US on salaries that undercut their American counterparts. Facebook did not respond to requests for comment. The program is supposed to help employers attract foreign workers with skills that are scarce in the United States.

Nasscom, the Indian IT service industry's main lobbying group, said it backs efforts to root out H-1B abuses, but said the idea that H-1B visa holders are cheap labour is inaccurate.

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