Friday, July 8th, 2016

Plastics Champions Take On Capitol Hill

On June 22, 2016, members of the plastics industry met with lawmakers during the 2016 Plastics Industry Fly-In, an event that gives professionals the opportunity to talk about important issues impacting plastics with our nation’s lawmakers. Nine plastics industry trade associations invited their members to come out and storm the Hill to have their voices heard. At the 2016 Plastics Industry Fly-In, first-time attendees began building relationships with members of Congress and their staffers, while returning participants were able to discuss progress and address new challenges.

This year’s Fly-In kicked off with an evening reception, followed by a briefing the next day featuring plastics industry experts who spoke about key issues that attendees would be bringing to the attention of lawmakers on the Hill later that day, including trade, tax and labor issues.

Equipped with the latest updates on the industry’s most pressing issues, the Plastics Champions left for their Hill meetings – but not before capturing a group picture in front of the U.S. Capitol.

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The 2016 Plastics Industry Fly-In Attendees on the steps of the Capitol.

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            From left to right: SPI’s Katie Masterson and Kiran Mand, Rep. Billy Long (R-MO), and Jarden Plastics’ Jessica Bursack.

Plastics Champions participated in a total of 99 SPI-arranged Hill meetings with members of Congress and/or their staff. Key industry recommendations included:

  • Passing the Trans-Pacific Partnership which offers important growth opportunities for the plastics industry.
  • Blocking the Department of Labor and National Labor Relations Board from enforcing new rules and standards intended to curb employer and employee flexibility and rights.
  • Moving corporate tax reform that allows for business certainty and encourages investment.
  • Supporting energy policy that encourages prudent development and utilization of domestic natural resources.
  • Using Congressional oversight authority to increase transparency and adherence to sound science and risk-based decisions in regulatory agency rulemaking.
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Fly-In Attendee Monica Filyaw of PolyQuest with Rep. David Rouzer (R-NC).

When their meetings concluded, the Plastics Champions headed from the Hill to an evening reception for a chance to network with fellow members of the plastics industry and members of Congress.

SPI members left D.C. with the tools and connections necessary to follow up with Congressional offices to supply additional information on pressing issues, schedule plant tours with elected officials in their home states and continue an ongoing. The meetings are just a starting point for what SPI hopes will be fruitful, continued relationships.

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

How Will the Brexit Impact the U.S. Plastics Industry?

Brexit concept jigsaw puzzleBy Michael Taylor, Vice President, International Affairs and Trade, SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association

The vote by 52 percent of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union—the so-called British exit (Brexit)—has sent shockwaves across global financial markets and ushered in a period of uncertainty for manufacturers on both sides of the Atlantic. The vote could further undermine growth within Europe and potentially around the globe. Given the size of the U.S. economic relationship with Europe, the U.K. decision may have significant ramifications for the American plastics industry.

The U.S. commercial relationship with the U.K. and EU combined is the U.S.’ largest in the world, representing about 40 percent of the global economy. Trade of U.S.–EU manufactured goods reached $836 billion in 2015, and cross-border investment equaled more than $5 trillion. Many U.S. companies with EU operations have headquarters in London, and about 17 percent of U.S.-manufactured exports to the EU are destined for the U.K.

The U.K. is the 9th largest export market for the U.S. plastics industry representing more than $1.3 billion dollars in goods in 2015, and our 8th largest import market with more than $249 million dollars in goods in 2015. While the day-to-day operations of businesses in the United Kingdom, European Union or the United States may not be directly impacted by the Brexit immediately, all businesses engaged in the transatlantic market should prepare for the changes that are inevitably coming.

It’s expected that what the Brexit means for manufacturers in the United States and their partners in Europe won’t be fully known for years. Soon the United Kingdom will begin negotiations with the EU under Article 50 of the Treaty of the European Union to set the terms of its withdrawal, a negotiation which some expect may take two years or more. Until the U.K. officially withdraws from the EU, it should be treated as an EU member state in trade for purposes of tariffs and other technical matters. Eventually, however, our trading relationship with the UK will experience increased costs and red tape after they have completely withdrawn from the EU. For U.K. manufacturers exporting into the EU, EU standards and regulations are expected to continue to apply for those goods to be eligible for sale, but much as they would normally apply to U.S. exports, rather than to exports from EU member companies.

Big Ben and Union Jack flag in England

Regarding the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a major trade treaty currently being negotiated, it is clear that the Brexit vote will be a drag on the progress of the deliberations. Prior to the vote, it was apparent that the differences separating the United States and EU in the TTIP talks were larger than the areas of shared objectives and perspectives. With the U.K. and EU now preparing to enter into a multi-year withdrawal negotiation, there are serious questions as to whether the TTIP talks can result in a truly meaningful and comprehensive agreement or even any deal at all. In addition, the loss of the UK voice within the EU will likely make it even more difficult for a deal to be struck. On a positive note, there is the possibility of a U.S.-U.K. free trade agreement, but this opportunity would still be years away at this point, and only be a fraction of the size of an ideal TTIP agreement with the entire EU.

All this said, although it is a significant event with notable economic consequences, the Brexit vote is unlikely to usher in a recession. It is very clear that all of the key players stand ready to intervene in the financial markets vigorously to buoy their economies as required. Specifically, in the U.S., the Federal Reserve will likely cut interest rates as opposed to raising them, counterbalancing any negative investment consequences the Brexit might have in the near-term for U.S. stakeholders.

But the causal relationship between political and economic uncertainty and negative market and trade consequences is well established. The Brexit will most likely have impacts akin to past Eurozone crises, at least in the short term. It will shake financial markets and consumer confidence, cause a majority of business decision-makers to hedge and serve as an unwelcome drag on economic growth and demand.

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

Plastics Industry Welcomes First Bipartisan TSCA Update in 40 Years

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SPI President and CEO William Carteaux

Earlier this week the Senate approved a much-needed update to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The bill is now headed to President Barack Obama’s desk for signature. Here’s what SPI President and CEO William Carteaux, had to say about the first substantive update to TSCA in four decades:

“The U.S. plastics industry and its partners have worked tirelessly with multiple Congresses and administrations to make our nation’s outdated chemical regulatory infrastructure stronger and more responsive to the needs of today’s consumers and companies.

Today those efforts have paid off in the form of bipartisan legislation marking the first substantive update to the Toxic Substances Control Act in four decades.

CongressSunriseViewThis consensus-based bill is the product of thoughtful discussions by House and Senate negotiators.  It gives consumers the confidence in the products they depend upon each day, while giving companies a more predictable regulatory system that’s based on science rather than rhetoric.  The plastics industry also applauds lawmakers for ensuring that the new bill provides for the preservation of confidential business information, ensuring that the growth this bill is certain to unlock won’t be jeopardized.

This is a great day for the U.S. plastics industry and its nearly one million workers and their families. We look forward to continuing to grow the American economy by manufacturing the safest, strongest and most technologically advanced products and materials.”

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

Why TSCA Reform Benefits Both the Public and the Plastics Industry

US CapitolThere’s much praise for both the House and Senate versions of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) legislation. Why? How does reforming a 40-year old piece of legislation impact an additive supplier in the value chain for an intricate piece in a larger finished product? Why should consumers be optimistic about the safety of future household products?

TSCA reform that is being negotiated by representatives from each chamber of Congress will update the 40-year-old regulatory framework to reflect today’s chemical manufacturing environment. In particular, we expect the negotiated version to overhaul the safety standards for chemicals entering the market, codify federal preemption language, and to protect confidential business information.

Here’s a look at what SPI and its members/stakeholders support:

Updated Safety Standards

TSCA will better define the safety standards that chemical manufacturers must meet so that consumers are more confident about the safety of chemicals in commerce. Costs and other non-risk factors should not be considered when evaluating the safety of a chemical. It is important TSCA consider potentially exposed subpopulations, such as children, to a chemical even under the intended conditions of use. Without these changes, it is difficult for businesses to demonstrate the safety of their products under the current, outdated regulatory system.

Federal Regulation to Preempt State Regulations

TSCA reform will reduce the need some states feel to step into the realm of chemical regulation. It’s more efficient for a company to comply with one federal regulation than it is to juggle 50 individual state regulations. The federal government recognizes this and is defining a threshold for states to implement their own regulatory standards.

Protect Confidential Business Information

Today’s TSCA reform outlines when information needs to be provided by private companies, but it also clarifies what is and is not protected. This confidence allows businesses to move forward with more innovative solutions to today’s chemical needs without worrying about disclosing trade secrets in the regulatory process.

U.S. manufacturers have made great strides in advancing chemical technology and use. These innovations make life as we know it possible. Unfortunately, the regulatory environment has not kept pace – but we expect this to change when negotiations conclude and a final bill is signed into law. We are confident that promising days lie ahead for those in the plastics industry impacted by TSCA.

Monday, April 4th, 2016

DOL Releases Final Persuader Rule

On March 23, the Department of Labor (DOL) released the final “persuader rule” which changes longstanding requirements on how employers can seek advice regarding union organizing activities and when employers and others have to disclose information to DOL. The previous rule required disclosure only from employers and others who had direct contact with employees regarding union organizing campaigns.

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The new rule will now require persuader disclosure by third-party lawyers and labor consultants educating employers on union organizing rights and collective bargaining, even if they have no direct contact with employees. Management attorneys argue that the new rule will threaten client confidentiality and hamper the ability of employers to seek advice to respond to unionization activities. The Obama Administration says that the rule will provide clarity to employees and the public without limiting what employers and consultants can say, and while informing workers of who is saying what. Exempt from disclosure is the advice from consultants and lawyers making “recommendations regarding a decision or course of conduct.” Trade associations are only exempted if they do not conduct seminars or provide materials to member companies.

The rule takes effect on April 25, 2016, and is applicable for arrangements and agreements made after July 1. The Coalition for a Democratic Workplace (CDW), of which SPI is a member, is reviewing the final rule and will challenge it in court if warranted.