It’s been more than 400 days since the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB) lapsed and there are still no concrete signs of progress, though insiders report lawmakers from both chambers of Congress are working on a deal behind-the-scenes to move things forward.
As regular readers know, 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, Congress allowed the duty relief benefits to lapse at the end of 2012, forcing U.S. companies to absorb the additional costs throughout the year and affecting their ability to compete. H.R. 2708, the stalled bill that reinstates MTB relief, includes several provisions covering rayon staple fibers but does not provide for a retroactive refund of tariffs.
As we keep saying, the best way to convince lawmakers of the importance of this measure and ensure its passage is to emphasize to your representatives in Congress the importance of the MTB to your company’s competitiveness. If you would like to send a message to your Congressional lawmakers encouraging them to support passage of the MTB, contact INDA’s Director of Government Affairs Jessica Franken directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to request a template letter and instructions for sending it. INDA will continue to keep its members posted about developments as they unfold.
Delay of Employer Mandate Under ACA
The Obama administration has once again delayed deadlines for implementing certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare). The U.S. Treasury Department issued new rules Feb. 10 delaying the mandate requiring companies to offer insurance to their employees. Under the new rule, companies employing 50 to 99 full-time workers have until Jan. 1, 2016 to comply with the shared employer responsibility provisions or be subject to a penalty. In order to benefit from the extension, employers must certify that they have not laid off employees in order to come under the 100 employee threshold. The rule also delays deadlines for companies with 100 plus workers, requiring that they offer insurance to 70 percent of full time employees by 2015 and allowing them an additional year, until 2016, to offer coverage to 95 percent of full-time workers. This most recent change is the second time that the administration has delayed employer obligations under the health care law.
The ACA requires that designated employers offer affordable insurance to full-time workers and their dependents. The Act considers employees who work 30 hours a week as full-time, defines affordable coverage as premiums of no more than 9.5 percent of an employee’s income, and requires employers to pay for the equivalent of 60 percent of the value of a worker’s coverage. Businesses that don’t comply will eventually face a fine of anywhere from $2,000-3,000 for each employee not offered coverage (minus the first 30 employees).
To read the final rules, visit: www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/fr-2014-02-12/2014-03082.htm
INDA Submits Comments on OSHA Recordkeeping Rule
INDA Feb. 27 joined numerous industry groups and some member companies in submitting comments to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that would require additional recordkeeping for workplace injuries and illnesses. According to the proposal, which was released in November 2013, establishments already required to keep injury and illness records under Part 1904, and that have 250 or more employees would be required to submit information to OSHA electronically on a quarterly basis. It would also require companies with 20 or more employees in industries with high injury and illness rates to electronically submit the information once a year. According to OSHA, “Designated industries represent all industries covered by Part 1904 with a 2009 Days Away From Work, Job Restriction, or Job Transfer (DART) rate of 2.0 or greater in the Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, excluding four selected transit industries where local government is a major employer.”
In its comments, INDA requests that OSHA withdraw the proposed regulation, which it says relies on a flawed economic analysis. INDA also argues that compliance would require disclosure of confidential commercial information and personally identifiable information; could lead to the misuse of raw data by third parties; and could negatively impact recordkeeping by employers.
To learn more about the proposed rule, visit: www.osha.gov/recordkeeping/proposed_data_form.html
U.S. and Brazil Team to Promote Investment
INDA members doing business or planning to do business in Brazil will welcome the news that SelectUSA and the Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency have agreed to cooperate in providing assistance for foreign investors. Representatives of the groups signed a memorandum of intent Feb. 7 committing to act as points of contact for existing and potential foreign investors seeking investment opportunities and to provide assistance in contacting appropriate investment and industry experts in both countries.
President Obama launched the SelectUSA program in 2011 to coordinate U.S. government resources domestically and abroad to promote foreign direct investment (FDI) in the United States. Apex-Brasil promotes Brazilian products and services abroad and works to attract FDI to Brazil.
U.S. Files WTO Case Against India
On Feb. 10, the United States asked the World Trade Organization (WTO) for consultation regarding India’s solar domestic content rules. This request is the second by the U.S. relating to India’s National Solar Mission, a three-phase program to promote the development of solar power generation facilities in India. The U.S. is challenging India’s requirement during Phase II that solar power developers use only Indian-manufactured solar cells and modules to the exclusion of imported materials. The U.S. argues that India’s actions are inconsistent with its obligation under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).
The U.S. had challenged similar domestic content requirements with respect to Phase I and after consultations had hoped that the requirements would not be imposed for Phase II. In October 2013, India’s Cabinet again imposed domestic content requirements when it set the NSM implementation policy for Phase II. A consultation request is the first step in the WTO dispute resolution process. If the matter is not resolved within 60 days, the U.S. has the right to request that a dispute panel hear the case
According to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, India is the second most important market for American solar producers, who exported $119 million of solar-energy-related products in 2011. Since India imposed the domestic content requirement, solar module exports have dropped significantly. The size of the Indian market is projected to increase by 20 times by 2020, so resolution of this issue is important to INDA members in the solar energy sector.