April 1, 2020

Washington Wire: Trump Administration Continues Focus on Tariffs


Trump Administration Continues Focus on Tariffs  

The United States and China failed to reach a trade settlement by July 6, 2018, and now the first round of Section 301 25% tariffs on $34 billion of 818 Chinese goods has taken effect. The administration is reviewing whether to apply the tariffs to another 284 products, representing $16 billion of Chinese goods. Furthermore, the federal government intends to restrict some investment and impose export controls to limit the ability of Chinese, and possibly some other, companies to acquire “industrially significant” technology. In response to U.S. tariffs, China has imposed duties of 25% on $34 Billion of U.S. imports on July 6, including agricultural products, automobiles, and aquatic products.
In addition to Section 301 tariffs, on May 23, 2018, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross initiated a Section 232 investigation to determine whether imports of automobiles and automotive parts threatened U.S. security. While neither the U.S. automotive industry nor their supplier organizations requested this investigation, sources indicate the administration is seeking to implement a 20-25% tariff on both foreign automobiles and automotive parts from all countries. The comment period on this investigation runs through June 29, and the Department of Commerce will conduct public hearings on July 19 and 20, 2018. Sources indicate the President would like to impose the tariffs prior to the November mid-term elections with a Commerce Department recommendation possibly coming as soon as August.



Senate Committee Passes Technical Education, Perkins Bill
On June 26, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee voted unanimously to send the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act to the full Senate for consideration. The bi-partisan bill, endorsed by One Voice, updates the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act for the first time since 2006. Like the version passed by bipartisan vote in the House last summer, the Senate bill eliminates the negotiation process between states and the Education secretary on how to use federal funds to meet career-training goals. Instead, states will be allowed to set their own goals for career-training programs without input from the Education Department. However, the bill allows the Secretary to become involved if a state fails to make “meaningful progress toward improving the performance of all career and technical education students.” Under that criteria, the secretary can withhold federal funds if a state fails to meet 90% of performance goals for two years in a row. Also of critical interest, Section 215 of the bill ensures that the middle grades also have access to CTE funding, an important step in filling the manufacturing workforce pipeline. One Voice and 400 other groups recently sent a letter supporting the reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act.
One Voice needs your help contacting Congress making sure they understand workforce training is a top priority for manufacturers. Please click here  to send a letter directly to you Senators and Representative calling on them to pass the Perkins CTE bill and also increase funding for these important programs.



Administration Eases Access to Association Health Plans
Last week the Labor Department, under the direction of President Trump, made it easier for small businesses to join together across state lines and form groups to buy or provide health insurance. By broadening the “commonality of interest” test and focusing more on the group as a whole, rather than the size of each company, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that 400,000 previously uninsured people will gain coverage under association health plans (AHPs). Although buyers cannot be excluded due to pre-existing conditions, AHPs will be allowed to charge different rates so long as they do not discriminate against any “health factor.” The Labor Department has established an applicability date of September 1, 2018, for fully-insured AHPs, an applicability date of January 1, 2019, for existing self-insured AHPs complying with the department’s re-rule test, and an applicability date of April 1, 2019, for new self-insured AHPs formed pursuant to this final rule.



Reminder OSHA 300A Forms Due July 1, 2018
Employers have until July 1, 2018, to submit Form 300A injury reports for calendar year 2017 to OSHA’s Injury Tracking Application (ITA) online portal. OSHA is slated to release a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in July 2018 to reconsider, revise, or remove provisions in the Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses rule. Sources indicate OSHA may only require filing of 300A electronically for businesses with more than 250 employees but is considering also asking for EIN numbers on submissions. However, a rule change will not happen in time to impact this recent deadline and manufacturers with 20 or more employees should submit their Form 300A injury reports for calendar year 2017 by the July 1 deadline. Please click here to access OSHA’s injury reporting webpage and ITA portal.



President Trump Signs the Small Business 7(a) Lending Oversight Reform Act
On June 21, 2018, in a move roundly applauded by the small business community, President Trump signed into law the Small Business 7(a) Lending Oversight Reform Act. The bipartisan bill will guarantee sufficient oversight of the Small Business Administration’s loan program and ease access to capital for small business owners. While preserving the SBA 7(a) loan program, the bill updates the credit elsewhere test. This update provides greater oversight of the program by Congress and allows the Small Business Administrator to increase the program’s authorization cap in an emergency. These changes provide more clarity to lenders and ensure small businesses have access to funds that would otherwise be unobtainable.