Senator Jon Tester is supporting new legislation which would require all products sold in America’s National Parks be American made.
It’s a small part of an effort to reduce the U.S. Trade deficit with China.
New York Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand introduced the American Parks, American Products Act into the Senate Back in March. The bill reads “The Secretary of the Interior shall ensure that all items offered for sale in any gift shop or visitor’s center located within a unit of the National Park System are produced in the United States.”
It would apply for the National Archives too.
Senator Tester signed on as a co-sponsor at the end of July. He says the bill just makes sense.
“If we’re promoting this country through our parks we ought to promote the businesses who do business in this county,” Tester said.
Many of the souvenirs found in National Park Gift shops come from China. A press release on this bill from Senator Tester points to America’s $273 billion trade deficit with China—about half of the entire trade deficit in the U.S.
“This Act would reference a portion of a one billion dollar industry. Seems like small potatoes, does it not?” I asked Tester.
“Well, it is but I think it also sends a great signal to the businesses and the manufacturers in this country and what it says is we’re going to give you the opportunity to succeed by allowing you to have a market in a place where you’ve got a market but it’s somewhat closed…This isn’t a big thing, it’s certainly not going to turn the trade deficit around with China that’s for sure. But what it will do is create jobs, help create economy and get some money circulating within that economy,” he said.
Representatives from the National Park Service say they cannot comment on pending legislation. And no comment from some of the private stores we called inside the parks, which are generally run by large corporations.
Representatives from Glacier Park Inc, which runs the shops in that park, say they are waiting for more information on the bill before they step into the conversation.
“Some of these, private shops within the National Park, they do thrive on these really cheap easy to obtain trinkets. Do you put them at risk by having to purchase goods that may be more expensive?” I asked.
“I don’t think so,” Tester replied. “To be honest, it’s kind of like the Olympic team wearing uniforms that should have been made in this country, and they weren’t and I think that was a mistake. I think we have the opportunity here because we’ve got a lot of folks that do a lot of incredible items that could be stocked in these stores but they don’t have access to it.”
The American Parks, American Products Act has been referred to committee in the Senate. Another, identical bill is working its way through the House.