August 9, 2020

Washington Wire: Input Needed for Steel, Aluminum Tariff Exclusion Process; Ask Congress to Support Reducing Burden


Input Needed for Steel, Aluminum Tariff Exclusion Process  

Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill are raising concerns on our behalf with the Administration over the product exclusion process in place where companies using steel or aluminum can petition to have that imported good excluded from tariffs. Currently each company must submit multiple requests for each individual steel product they want excluded and even if granted an exclusion, another company using the exact same type of material must still submit their own request. Please contact if your company has submitted an exclusion request as lawmakers are collecting anonymous stories about the challenges companies, particularly U.S. small businesses face filing an exclusion. Click here to access the exclusion application form.
The U.S. has in place 25% tariffs on imported steel and 10% on aluminum but has temporarily exempted through April 30th, a number of countries including NAFTA, EU, South Korea, and others. If the U.S. government does not reach agreements with those nations and blocs by the end of the month, the tariffs will take effect on them as well (Korea already secured an agreement to reduce their imports into the U.S.). The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative is considering country exemptions while the Department of Commerce is reviewing the product exclusion request. Please contact One Voice for more information about either.



Administration Outlines $50 Billion of Tariffs on Chinese Goods; Trump Threatens to Add Another $100 Billion
Based on the findings of its Section 301 investigation, in the beginning of April, the Office of the United States Trade Representative recommended tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods. The report cited China’s unfair trade practices related to the forced transfer of U.S. technology and intellectual property as justification for the tariffs. In its recommendation, USTR would impose a 25% duty on 1,300 Chinese goods that benefit from China’s technology and intellectual property policies. The list, which you can find here, includes many machines and machine parts used by One Voice members. In retaliation, China has threatened $50 billion of tariffs on U.S. goods. President Trump indicated he may add another $100 billion worth of tariffs if China followed through on its threat, though the government has yet to release the additional list. USTR will hold a hearing on its 301 tariff recommendations on May 15, 2018, and companies seeking to exclude a product from the U.S. tariffs must file a request by May 11.
In other tariff news, President Trump met with French President Emmanuel Macron this week and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday. Both European leaders are urging the President to permanently exempt European Union nations from 232 steel and aluminum tariffs. The temporary exemption for EU and other nations received from 232 tariffs ends on May 1.



USTR Looking to Reach Agreement on New NAFTA by May 4
Unofficial negotiations between the United States, Canada, and Mexico have been ongoing all month in Washington, D.C. with the parties hoping to reach an agreement in principle by May 4. Achieving an agreement by this deadline is critical for all parties involved because of the upcoming Mexican presidential elections this July and the required six-month cooling off period, during which time it will be reviewed and voted on by Congress before it can be signed by President Trump. Assuming the parties make this deadline, that will allow the agreement to be reviewed and passed likely by a lame-duck session of Congress in December. Missing the deadline will push the cooling off period into the next session of Congress which, depending on elections this November, could be in the Democrats control.
While the three countries have never been more optimistic of reaching a deal soon, negotiations over automotive rules of origin, along with labor and intellectual property, remain a sticking point. Under current law, vehicles with at least 62.5% NAFTA country components may cross borders duty free. During every round of negotiations, the U.S. demanded an increase to 85% to reach the duty free threshold. However, late last week USTR lowered its demands to 75%. This change in position is in response to the countries agreeing to a “focused regional value content” framework for automotive rules of origin. In order to meet the 75% regional value content, USTR wants to place automotive components into three separate categories, depending how critical the component is to the vehicle. Countries could earn credit toward the value content threshold if the component is made by workers earning no less than $15 an hour. Experts believe this would move the production of critical automotive components, like transmissions, to the United States.



EPA Plans to Ease Fuel Efficiency Standards for Cars and Light Trucks
On April 1, 2018, the EPA announced that the Obama administration’s greenhouse gas standards for auto model years 2022 – 2025 were too aggressive. As such, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt said his agency will work with the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to start a new rule-making process to set more appropriate standards.
Soon after Pruitt’s announcement, the state of California vowed to stick the stricter Obama EPA standards. Due to history and legal precedent, California has the ability to write its own air pollution rules. Regardless of that history, administrator Pruitt remarked that one state did not have the authority to dictate standards for the rest of the United States, suggesting the Trump administration will take on California’s authority to set its own rules.
A dozen other states follow California’s air pollution rules, representing one-third of the U.S. auto market. It is not certain how the auto industry would handle a fractured American auto market. Due to this uncertainty, Trump administration officials and California Air Resources Board have been meeting in private to reach a compromise and avoid a legal fight in the courts. One proposal supposedly still being discussed between the parties would keep the standards in place through 2025, but provide more flexibility for automakers to meet the standards. In exchange, the Trump administration would allow California to set stricter standards through 2030.



OSHA Will Begin Enforcement of Online Injury and Illness Reporting
Under OSHA’s Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses regulations, Employers had to submit an online copy of their 2016 OSHA 300A form by the end of December 2017. At the time, OSHA expected around 350,000 300A form submissions, yet received a little over 214,000 300A forms once the agency stopped accepting electronic submissions. Believing one-third of companies failed to comply with its regulation, at the end of February, OSHA issued an enforcement memorandum regarding non-responders to Regional Administrators. During on-site inspections, the memo instructs compliance officers to inquire whether the employer electronically filed its 2016 300A form. If the employer failed to comply with the regulation, OSHA will issue an Other Than Serious citation:
  • If the employer failed to submit, but immediately abates during the inspection by providing a paper copy of the records, an Other Than Serious citation will be issued with no penalty.
  • If the employer failed to submit its CY2016 data, but shows it has already submitted its CY2017 data, an Other Than Serious citation will be issued with no penalty.
  • If the employer does not produce the records, an Other Than Serious citation will be issued with the appropriate penalty.
If there seems to be evidence of potential systemic recordkeeping issues, inspectors may perform a full recordkeeping audit. However, OSHA will not issue a citation if the employer provides documentation that it attempted and failed to submit its records electronically. OSHA has until June 15, 2018 to issue Other Than Serious citations to employers that have failed to comply to the regulation.
Two weeks ago, in a hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta acknowledged that OSHA has improved its enforcement inspections because data collected under the rule has allowed the Agency to concentrate inspections “on where injuries are occurring and what types of injuries.” While he did somewhat defend the rule, Secretary Acosta stated that the Agency “intends to publish a notice of proposed rulemaking to reconsider, revise, or remove portions of that rule in 2018.”