Faced with the failure by Congress to pass comprehensive chemical reform legislation along with a growing number of consumers concerned about the things they’re bringing into their homes, a number of major retailers are becoming proactive about toxic chemicals in the products they sell. Target and Wal-Mart are the most recent in a growing list of retailers adopting their own standards to monitor the chemicals in the products in their stores rather than just reacting to government initiated bans and recalls. Coupled with California’s recently enacted Safer Consumer Products legislation, the European Union’s REACH laws and headway in Korea, Taiwan and India to adopt chemical reform measures, manufacturers who market their products globally are faced with a myriad of laws and standards to consider.
On Oct. 14, Target Corporation, the third largest retailer in the U.S., announced the launch of its first ever Sustainable Product Standard. According to a news release, under the standard, Target will ask vendors representing 7500 products in four categories—household cleaners, personal care and beauty and baby care—to complete a sustainability assessment. Each product will be ranked on a 100-point scale based on chemical safety, environmental impact, and information transparency, with those that rank highest receiving preferential marketing and merchandising treatment. Target’s program will place the primary emphasis on whether the products contain chemicals with high-level health concerns, specifically those on state, federal and European regulatory lists. Target says it plans to expand the program to include cosmetics beginning in 2014.
For more information on Target’s program:
Target’s announcement comes on the heels of Wal-Mart’s Sept. 12 proclamation that it will begin phasing out 10 chemicals in four product categories in favor of safer alternatives. Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest retailer, did not identify the 10 chemicals it plans to eliminate but did specify the product categories as cleaners, personal care products, cosmetics and baby care products.
Environmental health interest groups applauded the Target and Wal-Mart initiatives and expect other large retailers to adopt similar programs. INDA member companies that make products in the targeted categories should plan to see more of this de facto regulation. With heightened consumer concerns about toxic chemicals being brought into their homes, retailers with strong market shares will be able to accomplish what the federal government has been unable to achieve.
Meanwhile, Congress is signaling its intention to take up chemical reform yet again. Sen. Barbara Boxer, (D-CA) said Nov. 5 that she is “making every effort” to complete changes to the outdated Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) this year. There are currently two major bills to reform TSCA that have been stalled in Congress since last spring: the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (S. 1009), which was proposed in May by the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) and the Safe Chemicals Act (S. 696) introduced in April by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Lautenberg. Sen. Boxer said she intends to include provisions from both of those bills in her own new bill.
Miscellaneous Tariff Bill Update
Add Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, to the list of those calling on Congress to pass the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB). In a Nov. 12 opinion piece in the Washington Times, Norquist chastised Congress for “forcing U.S. companies—and American consumers—to pay an extra quarter billion dollars a year in tariffs owing to its own inaction.”
The MTB provides critical import duty relief on hundreds of essential manufacturing inputs that are not available in the U.S., including viscose rayon staple fibers. Unfortunately, MTB benefits were allowed to lapse at the end of 2012, forcing U.S. companies to absorb unfair and unnecessary costs affecting their ability to compete. Although lawmakers are back to business as usual after the government shutdown, they have still given no sign as to when or how they plan to advance the MTB. As Norquist argued, “[I]t doesn’t make any sense at all for our own government to be taxing our own employers for importing materials that aren’t available here.”
A bill to reinstate the relief, the omnibus Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (H.R. 2708), was introduced in the House Ways and Means Committee July 17, but no further action has been taken to advance it. H.R. 2708 includes several provisions affecting rayon staple fibers, which are summarized at the end of this article. While it is unclear whether the MTB will be regarded as a priority during the few legislative days remaining this year, it is clear that it will take a vigorous concerted effort to guarantee the bill is passed. Once again, we are calling on INDA members to urge Congress to pass the MTB.
How You Can Get Involved
Send a letter to your House and Senate lawmakers encouraging them to support passage of the MTB. Contact INDA’s director of government affairs Jessica Franken directly at email@example.com to request a template letter and instructions for sending it.
As always, INDA will keep you informed about any significant developments. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact INDA government affairs staff should you have any questions.
Rayon Provisions in H.R. 2708
• HTS Heading 9902.23.33: Staple fibers of viscose rayon, not carded, combed, or otherwise processed for spinning, measuring 1.67 to 16.67 decitex and having a fiber length each measuring 20 mm or more but not over 150 mm; (provided for in subheading 5504.10.00). If H.R. 2708 is passed and enacted, the current 4.3% duty will be reduced to 4.0% until Dec. 31, 2015.
• HTS Heading 9902.23.34: Staple fibers of rayon, carded, combed, or otherwise processed for spinning, the foregoing presented in the form of top (provided for in subheading 5507.00.00). If H.R. 2708 is passed and enacted, the current 5% duty will be reduced to 0% until Dec. 31, 2015.
• HTS Heading 9902.25.59: Staple fibers of viscose rayon, not carded, combed, or otherwise processed for spinning. If H.R. 2708 is passed and enacted, the current 4.3% tariff will be reduced to 3.4% until Dec. 31, 2015.
• HTS Heading 9902.45.35: Staple fibers of viscose rayon, not carded, combed or otherwise processed for spinning, measuring 1 decitex or more but not over 1.3 decitex and having a fiber length each measuring 20 mm or more but not over 150 mm (provided for in subheading 5504.10.00). If H.R. 2708 is passed and enacted, the current 4.3% duty will be reduced to 0% until Dec. 31, 2015.
• HTS Heading 9902.45.36: Staple fibers of viscose rayon, not carded, combed or otherwise processed for spinning, measuring over 1.3 decitex but less than 1.67 decitex and having a fiber length each measuring 20 mm or more but not over 150 mm (provided for in subheading 5504.10.00). If H.R. 2708 is passed and enacted, the current 4.3% duty will be reduced to 0% until Dec. 31, 2015.
• HTS Heading 9902.55.04: Viscose rayon staple fibers having a decitex of less than 5.0 and a multi-limbed cross-section, the limbs having a length-to-width aspect ratio of at least 2:1 (provided for in subheading 5504.10.00). If H.R. 2708 is passed and enacted, the current 4.3% duty will be lowered to 2.1% until Dec. 31, 2015.