Aisle after aisle, booths from the Americas, Europe, Asia, India and all corners of the globe displayed similar products – different finished goods from diapers and wipes to a vast array of medical products, filtration, geotextiles and pretty much everything else under the sun intermingled with fabrics, fibers, machinery of all descriptions, polymers, binders—you name it. It’s a long, long list.
And one of the things I kept thinking about while touring the IDEA show floor was an Executive Order issued by President Obama about two weeks earlier—EO 13725—intended to “Increase Competition and Better Inform Consumers and Workers to Support Continued Growth of the American Economy.”
At IDEA 2016 I felt like I was standing on ground zero of increased competition. Especially when I thought back to the first IDEA show I attended in Baltimore many years ago.
Nevertheless, EO 13725 seeks to protect American consumers and workers by encouraging competition in the U.S. economy. This means “maintaining, encouraging and supporting a fair, efficient and competitive marketplace as a cornerstone of the American economy.” Consumers and workers, the EO notes, also need competitive markets and information to make informed choices.
To ensure that the U.S. market remains competitive, the EO sets some goals for the federal government:
Promoting competitive markets and ensuring that consumers and workers have access to the information needed to make informed choices must be a shared priority across the Federal Government. Executive departments and agencies can contribute to these goals through, among other things, pro-competitive rulemaking and regulations, and by eliminating regulations that create barriers to or limit competition. Such Government-wide action is essential to ensuring that consumers, workers, startups, small businesses and farms reap the full benefits of competitive markets.
To this end, EO 13725 sets out seven Agency Responsibilities—including two with reporting deadlines—with a final report due by June 15, 2016. This seems daunting considering the other agency responsibilities contained in EO 13725.
The full text is available through any Internet search engine but a short list of agency requirements includes identifying new ways to: 1) detect price fixing, anticompetitive behaviors, exclusionary conduct and blocked access to critical resources; 2) promote competition through pro-competitive rulemaking and regulations; 3) provide consumers with information needed to make informed choices and 4) eliminate regulations that “restrict competition without corresponding benefits to the American public.”
The first item on this list involves better abilities to root out anti-competitive business practices cited in the EO—unlawful collusion, illegal bid rigging, price fixing, wage setting, anti-competitive exclusionary conduct, and “mergers [that] stifle competition and erode the foundation of America’s economic vitality.”
These practices, the EO notes, lead to higher prices and poorer service for customers, less innovation, fewer new businesses being launched and reduced opportunities for workers.
Another benefit of better antitrust law enforcement cited in EO 13725, is the advancement of “national priorities” including “delivery of affordable health care, energy independence and improved access to fast and affordable broadband.” Another conclusion is that “Competitive markets also promote economic growth, which creates opportunity for American workers and encourages entrepreneurs to start innovative companies that create jobs.”
Lastly, EO 13527 makes clear that these agency responsibilities extend beyond the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission—the two agencies generally recognized as having jurisdiction over antitrust issues in the U.S.—to any agency with authority that could be used to enhance competition. Depending on who you talk to, this may be a really long list of government entities.
By May 15 the director of the National Economic Council is supposed to receive an initial list of: 1) actions each agency can potentially take to promote more competitive markets; 2) any specific practices that potentially restrict consumer or worker choice; and 3) any relevant authorities and tools potentially available to enhance competition or make information more widely available for consumers and workers.
The June 15 final report to the President is expected to contain recommendations on agency-specific actions that eliminate barriers to competition, promote greater competition and improve consumer access to information needed to make informed purchasing decisions. Included in these recommendations is a list of priority actions, including rulemakings, as well as timelines for completing those actions.
For industry members, buzzwords of particular interest in the EO include “price fixing,” “anticompetitive behaviors,” “exclusionary conduct” and “blocked access to critical resources,” because every agency in the U.S. government has now been tasked with figuring out ways to better detect and prevent these practices.
This, of course, is not to say that the domestic nonwovens industry should have any specific concern with broader government scrutiny of competitive behaviors – it shouldn’t – but EO 13527 is a head’s up that such scrutiny may be more diverse and focused in the very near future.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a final rule on May 10, 2016, that revises maximum permit terms for Municipal Solid Waste Landfills that are operating under Research, Development and Demonstration (RD&D) permits.
According to EPA, the RD&D permit program began in 2004 and allows landfill facilities to utilize innovative methods of pollution control (including run-on control systems, liquids restrictions and final cover criteria) under relaxed regulatory conditions. Current rules limit RD&D permits to three years, according to EPA, which can be renewed three times or 12 years total. Under the new rule these permits can be renewed six times, for a total term of up to 21 years.
More information is available through www.regulations.gov by searching docket number EPA-HQ-RCRA-2015-0126, or by contacting Craig Dufficy in EPA’s Materials Recovery and Waste Management Division. Dufficy can be reached by telephone at 703-308-9037 or email addressed to: Dufficy.firstname.lastname@example.org.