Politics, not reality, is behind a provision of a defense spending bill now in House-Senate conference that has prompted a squabble between Goodyear and Michelin.
The bill would affect both domestic and foreign companies that supply the U.S. military. The House amendment to the Department of Defense authorization bill adds tires for military aircraft and various vehicles to the list of products that can only be American-made.
The new rule also would require 65 percent of components in items purchased by the military be of U.S. manufacture, up from the current 50 percent.
There's plenty of reasons for the House members to pass this bill: It's anti-French, which is in vogue; pro-American, also very popular; and it's pork, since it would mean more of the contracts would go to the legislator's constituencies. Foreigners don't provide campaign funds or vote in congressional elections.
It also is hypocritical. The U.S. is a country that seeks global support for its military and diplomatic initiatives, is a member of NATO and waves the free trade banner throughout the world. Restrictions on military procurement while following those policies doesn't jive.
Which is why it's just politics. Even the Bush administration, whose party controls Congress, believes this new ``Buy American'' plan goes too far.
Goodyear supports the House effort, and the company said it has no problem with other nations following similar ``made here'' content laws. Since the U.S. spent $342 billion on the military in 2002 while, in comparison, its NATO allies spent around $150 billion combined, it's easy to see what prompts Goodyear's stance. More business for Goodyear.
Michelin-which, by the way, employs thousands in the U.S.-is not at all happy about the House bill. The French-owned tire company notes the tire industry is a global business, and points out it answered a call from the Pentagon during the Iraq war and airlifted tires from factories in Germany.
The House and Senate are working to reconcile the two spending bills. The House members who support the ``Buy American'' provision need to reconcile that stance with their free trade mantra. They can't have it both ways.
Or maybe they can. It is just politics.