- - Monday, May 29, 2017

On Inauguration Day, President Trump declared: “From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first.” Since then, he has repeatedly committed to “delivering for the American worker” — the working-class voter who propelled him to the White House. The president recently backed up the rhetoric by signing a “Buy American, Hire American” executive order, directing federal agencies to implement his campaign promises and support U.S. workers in assigning infrastructure projects.

But how will the government know which businesses buy and hire American? And do Americans even care?

Surprisingly to some, the president’s patriotic pleas are not simply political, but actually reflect the public’s increasingly pro-American preferences. According to a newly-released Harvard-Harris poll, 65 percent of Americans approve of Mr. Trump’s “America First” philosophy. Even more — 74 percent — agree that the federal government should adopt a “Buy American, Hire American” policy. A landmark 2012 survey from the Boston Consulting Group found that 80 percent of Americans agree purchasing American-made goods shows patriotism.

The issue of outsourcing unites Democrats and Republicans, who almost universally sympathize with U.S. workers and the businesses with a proven track record of bolstering local economies. As Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, puts it, “It’s something that an overwhelming majority of people, regardless of their political affiliation, agree with.”

And are Americans willing to spend more to put America first? Resoundingly, yes. According to an Opinion Research Corporation poll conducted in April of this year, nearly 70 percent of Americans claim that supporting “America First” businesses is important to them. More than 80 percent of these Americans say that they would choose an “America First” product even if it “costs a little more.”

So how do these consumers identify “America First” businesses?

While the Trump administration’s “Buy American, Hire American” agenda symbolizes a shift in U.S. trade policy, the private sector must take up the mantle and implement “America First” policies through proper certification procedures. In other words, how does a patriotic business publicly differentiate itself from a competitor outsourcing labor or paying taxes overseas?

Until recently, American consumers had a very difficult time identifying which businesses paid taxes to a foreign country or used Chinese and Indian workers. Likewise, U.S. businesses found it difficult to publicize their domestic-based tax practices and use of homegrown labor.

While traditional “Made in the USA” labels reward manufacturers that make products domestically, they do not incentivize nonmanufacturers to hire Americans, source their materials and services from other U.S. businesses, locate themselves in America, and pay taxes to federal, state, and local governments.

In other words, “Made in the U.SA.” labels only apply to a very specific sector of the economy, leaving out establishments like restaurants, law firms, accounting practices, and pet stores — to name just a few — whose patriotic business practices go unnoticed.

Take your local bookstore. Even if the business sources all of its bookshelves and accounting services from U.S. companies, you might not even know about it. When most Americans vow to support patriotic establishments, this becomes a massive problem for customers looking for them and the businesses looking to meet demand.

Fortunately, there is a solution. The “America First” certification program was recently introduced to help businesses publicize themselves and inform curious customers. The program certifies businesses that buy, hire, and source American by looking at five key metrics: People, products, places, sourcing, and taxation. This allows businesses large and small to demonstrate their commitment to American workers and products, while giving customers a method to easily identify who exactly buys and hires American.

As Mr. Trump promotes an “America First” agenda, more and more businesses will emerge claiming to be patriotic to win over customers. Now, they can actually prove it.

• Richard Berman is the president of Berman and Company, a public relations firm in Washington, D.C.

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