Document Type


Publication Date





As the Trump administration came of age in 2018, two distinct developments marked the United States’ involvement in international procurement. First, to the surprise of many, and despite a wave of other U.S. protectionist measures aimed at strategic sectors such as steel and aluminum, the Trump administration did not press forward aggressively on its promised “Buy American” initiatives in procurement. Second, the Trump administration remained largely silent on an arguably protectionist initiative in the European Union, the European Defense Fund, which gained ground in one of the United States’ most important defense markets abroad. To address these two aspects of U.S. policy, this piece proceeds in five parts. Part I reviews the Trump administration’s failure to move forward on the protectionist measures President Trump called for in the early days of his administration. In Part II, the piece discusses one of the possible causes for the Trump administration’s reluctance to press for protectionism: a significant setback in the NAFTA/USMCA negotiations, which may narrow the administration’s options going forward. Part III reviews other potential causes for the Trump administration’s shift away from protectionism in procurement, including competing strategic concerns, new U.S. data on the relatively small threat posed by procurement from abroad, and data from Europe which confirm that U.S. exporters have much to lose were the European Union to take a retaliatory stance in European procurement markets. Finally, Part IV reviews the European Defense Fund, an initiative which surged forward in 2018 and which threatens to exclude U.S. defense companies from important opportunities in Europe, despite reciprocal defense procurement agreements which guarantee open markets in defense and -- again surprisingly -- with no loud objections from the Trump administration. Part V offers concluding remarks and a potential way forward.

GW Paper Series

GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 2019-51; GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2019-51

Included in

Law Commons