On Friday, a spokesperson at the White House said the Keystone XL Pipeline is exempt from the buy-America requirement because construction for the pipeline project had already begun.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Sanders remarks: “The way that executive order is written, it’s specific to new pipelines or those that are being repaired.”

Sanders goes on to say, “Since this one is already currently under construction, the steel is already literally sitting there; it would be hard to go back.”

Economists had actually tried to warn—only days after Trump issued the order—that the phrasing in the steel requirement had many loopholes and that they would be not be easy to enforce, and could violate international trade law.

Even without loopholes, though, US steelmakers would only receive a very small benefit from contributing to the projects since it is not easy to meet these very strict requirements.

Now, this is not exactly the way President Donald Trump had described the requirements, at least not when in his public statements. Even just last week, Trump had given a speech at the CPAC conference of conservative activists in which he reminded that he first came up with the buy-America idea while signing the Keystone XL Pipeline back on task.

You may recall, at the time, he said, “We have authorized the construction … of the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines.”

President Trump explains, “This took place while I was getting ready to sign. I said, ‘who makes the pipes for the pipeline?’

“‘Well, sir, it comes from all over the world, isn’t that wonderful?’

“I said, ‘Nope, it comes from the United States, or we’re not building one.’ American steel. If they want a pipeline in the United States, they’re going to use pipe that’s made in the United States.”

The pipeline builder, TransCanada, has reported that roughly half the steel used in the construction of the pipeline and the rest will be imported. Of course, TransCanada is pleased to be able to continue the project, which connects Canada with oil refineries along the Gulf Coast.  And President Trump has also authorized the restart of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which connect North Dakota oil to Illinois refineries.