Dear Mr. Litchfield:
This letter responds to your correspondence of July 13, 2004, in which you request an extension of a Buy America non-availability component waiver for the Mars Electronics International (MEI) BNA57 and BNA52/54 bill handling units which are manufactured in Switzerland for use in ticket vending machines.† MEIís bill acceptor unit is able to identify, validate, and place in mechanical escrow banknotes of multiple denominations from $1 up to $100 utilizing all optical recognition.† The device is able to hold up to fifteen bills in escrow, and to return a customerís bills in situations where the transaction is not complete.† In addition, the unit also provides remote download capability which allows transit authorities the option to download new bill recognition software via network from one central location.† On December 10, 2002, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) granted MEI a waiver for this equipment.† For the reasons below, I have determined that an extension of this waiver is appropriate here.
FTA's requirements concerning domestic preference for federally funded transit projects are set forth in 49 U.S.C. §5323(j).† However, Section 5323(j)(2)(B) states that those requirements shall not apply if the item or items being procured are not produced in the U.S. in sufficient and reasonably available quantities and of a satisfactory quality.† The implementing regulation also provides that a waiver may be requested "for a specific item or material that is used in the production of a manufactured product."† 49 C.F.R. 661.7(g). The regulations allow a bidder or supplier to request a waiver only if it is being sought under this section.† See, 49 C.F.R. 661.7(g) and 49 C.F.R. 661.9(d).
You state that based on your review of the market for bill handling equipment, there are still no U.S. manufacturers of a functionally equivalent product.† To your knowledge, GAO/Geiseke & Devirant (G&D), Toyocom and Cashcode, all of whom manufacture similar products overseas, are the only producers of functionally equivalent bill handling units.† In fact, FTA has granted similar waivers to Toyocom and Cashcode for bill handling products, based on non-availability of a U.S. alternative.† In addition, FTA posted a request for comments on this matter on our website and received no response from any domestic manufacturer of this type of product.† FTA did receive comments in favor of the waiver request.
Based on the above-referenced information, I have determined that the grounds for a "non-availability" waiver exist.† Therefore, pursuant to the provisions of 49 U.S.C. §5323(j)(2)(B), a waiver is hereby granted for manufacture of the BNA57 and BNA52/54 bill handling units for a period of two years, or until such time as a domestic source for this type of unit becomes available, whichever occurs first.† In order to insure that the public is aware of this waiver, particularly potential manufacturers, it will be published in the Federal Register.† If you have any questions, please contact Joseph Pixley at (202) 366-1936.
Very truly yours,
Gregory B. McBride
Deputy Chief Counsel