June 3, 2023

Washington Wire: U.S. to Replace Steel Tariffs on Japan with Tariff Rate Quotas



U.S. to Replace Steel Tariffs on Japan with Tariff Rate Quotas 
On February 7, 2022, the U.S. and Japan announced an agreement to replace the current 25 percent tariffs on imported Japanese steel with a tariff rate quota system similar to the one that took effect for the European Union on January 1, 2022. Effective April 1, 2022, the new agreement with Japan will allow U.S. businesses to import 1.25 million metric tons annually, after which, the 25 percent tariffs will resume on the category of product shipped to the U.S. The deal does not cover Japanese aluminum, which is still subject to a 10 percent tariff.



Competition Bill Moves to Conference with One Voice Supported Workforce Provisions Included
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a supply chain and manufacturing competition bill on Friday, February 4, 2022, to counter China and invest in domestic innovation. The America COMPETES Act passed the House by a 222-210 vote almost strictly along party lines; one Republican voted for the measure and one Democrat opposed. The legislation is the House’s response to the Senate’s U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA), which passed in June, to counter China and support domestic supply chains. Passage of the House measure allows both chambers to begin the conference process to resolve differences and produce a final bill. 
The House bill, the America COMPETES Act of 2022, includes $52 billion to incentivize domestic semiconductor manufacturing, $5.2 billion for STEM workforce and training, and $500 million to implement a program creating manufacturing hubs around the country, increased funding for the National Science Foundation and provisions encouraging businesses to relocate out of China.
The House bill also contains the National Apprenticeship Act providing funding to expand high-quality Registered Apprenticeship opportunities. Additionally, thanks to the efforts of One Voice members, the House voted to include an amendment supported by One Voice that added the JOBS Act and the College Transparency Act to the bill, provisions that expand federal Pell Grants to allow for their use to earn short-term credentials and provide transparency for students regarding tuition and postsecondary outcomes. While Democrats hope to send the White House a bill by the March 1st State of the Union, negotiations could drag into next month. 
The House trade bill does not include several elements contained in the Senate’s USICA trade title, such as language requiring the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to immediately reopen a broad product-exclusion process for Section 301 tariffs on Chinese goods or the provision reinstating all expired Section 301 exclusions.
As the House and Senate begin negotiations and try to agree on a final bill, One Voice will continue to work to ensure that the focus of the bill remains on countering China, investing in domestic manufacturing, and includes vital workforce training provisions. 



One Voice Files Heat Rule Comments
On January 26, 2022, One Voice filed formal comments with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on a potential heat-illness prevention standard. OSHA may issue its proposed rule in Spring 2022 covering workspaces when the heat index reaches 80 degrees.
One Voice is concerned that an overly broad standard would fail to recognize the diversity of indoor work environments and the unique situations across industries and would impose burdensome requirements for manufacturers. 
OSHA has not yet formally proposed a heat standard, but on October 27, 2021, issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) on heat injury and illness in outdoor and indoor workplaces. The agency requested comments from stakeholders on factors it should consider when developing the standard, posing over 100 questions on current and potential heat-danger issues, to "gather diverse perspectives and expertise on topics, such as heat-stress thresholds, heat-acclimatization planning, and exposure monitoring."
While the ANPRM did not include any proposed regulatory text, OSHA’s new heat National Emphasis Program (NEP), defines a "heat priority day" for enforcement as a day where the "heat index . . . exceeds 80 degrees Fahrenheit."
In the comments, One Voice argued that a broad one-size-fits-all standard requiring engineering controls, such as air conditioning, to meet an 80-degree heat index threshold across the entirety of large manufacturing facilities would not only lead to prohibitive costs but in some cases is infeasible. 



Large Employer Vaccine Mandate Withdrawn
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has officially withdrawn its COVID-19 vaccine emergency temporary standard (ETS) following the blocking of the ETS by the Supreme Court. In the decision halting implementation of OSHA's COVID-19 vaccine-or-test ETS, the Supreme Court held that the ETS was too broad to fit within OSHA’s congressionally delegated authority to regulate “occupational safety.”
While OSHA withdrew the ETS on January 26, 2022, as an “enforceable” standard, the agency also announced that it is leaving the ETS in place as a proposed rule. Under the OSH Act, any ETS functions both as an enforceable short-term rule and the first stage of a permanent standard the agency could issue at a later time. While OSHA will most likely focus a permanent standard on the healthcare industry, the agency will continue to inspect employer worksites for COVID-19 safety as part of the COVID-19 National Emphasis Program and the Occupational Safety and Health Act's general duty clause, which requires employers to provide a work environment that is “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.” 



Updated Social Cost of Carbon Metric Coming
The Biden administration expects to release the final social cost of carbon (SCC) estimates this summer. The estimate for the dollar cost to society of each ton of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere is a tool used by the administration to monetize the climate-related benefits of federal rules and regulations and could potentially also be used to analyze individual projects or procurement decisions. 
On his very first day in office, Biden issued an Executive Order reestablishing an Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases (IWG) and tasked the IWG with releasing an interim updated social cost of carbon (SCC) estimate to guide federal policymaking in 2021 and establishing a final estimate. While a final SCC estimate was initially expected by the end of January 2022, the administration is now saying that the IWG intends to publish proposed final SCC estimates within the next two months. 
The administration's interim SCC values largely re-established the Obama estimate of around $50 per ton while correcting for inflation, though many experts predict that final recommendations could more than double the estimated benefits of curbing GHGs to a level over $100 per ton, allowing them to more easily justify restrictions placed on emissions.