Washington looks to up enforcement action on steel, aluminum imports

Sep 03, 2020
In The News

Washington looks to up enforcement action on steel, aluminum imports

Commerce Department and Congress seek extra funds to beef up trade enforcement

Written by Stephen Barlas
Published by The Fabricator 

The House passed an amendment supporting adequate funding for the U.S. Department of Commerce in the next fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, 2020. This agency is charged with approving tariffs and countervailing duties.

More specifically, it is the International Trade Administration’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance (E&C) that takes on those responsibilities. Apparently congressional pressure motivated E&C to publish a proposed rule that would make it easier for the office to act against imports being dumped in the U.S. or unfairly subsidized by a foreign government.

Undoubtedly, the focus would be on imports of aluminum and steel. E&C has been turning up the heat on those imports in recent months. For example, in August the office indicated that preliminary determinations suggested imports of common alloy aluminum sheet from Bahrain, Brazil, India, and Turkey were benefiting from unfair government subsidies.

In late July the House passed an E&C amendment, introduced by the leaders of the Congressional Steel Caucus, Reps. Mike Bost, R-Ill.; Conor Lamb, D-Pa.; and Rick Crawford, R-Ark., to the fiscal 2021 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies appropriations bill. The amendment would set minimum funding levels for trade enforcement activities at E&C. The Alliance for American Manufacturing; American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI); Committee on Pipe and Tube Imports; Municipal Castings Association; Specialty Steel Industry of North America; Steel Manufacturers Association; and United Steelworkers signed a letter to the sponsors backing the amendment.

However, Lisa Harrison, a spokeswoman for the AISI, noted that no Senate companion amendment existed as of late August. That means a House-Senate conference committee would have to decide whether to keep the Bost amendment in the appropriations bill Congress finally passes.

Meanwhile, Congress is considering even more resources for E&C. The office has proposed a number of changes to improve administration and enforcement of the antidumping duty and countervailing duty laws and create new enforcement tools to address circumvention and evasion of trade remedies. One change would give domestic companies more time to comment on potential E&C actions. Another change would make it easier for the office to root out foreign suppliers who are first-time exporters to the U.S. of items that are already subject to previous dumping and tariff orders. Those exporters—subject to “new shipper reviews”—are sometimes able to avoid full tariffs.

EPA Wants to Keep Current Ozone Standard for Next Five Years

Environmental groups are challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) preliminary decision to leave ozone air emission standards in place for the next five years.

In 2015 the EPA set those primary and secondary ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), at 70 parts per billion (PPB). The primary standard protects against heart and lung diseases such as asthma; the secondary standard avoids environmental damage. The EPA must review the standards every five years and determine whether they need to be changed.

The EPA officially announced its stance on Aug. 14. The agency noted that six of the seven members of its independent Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) supported keeping the primary standard and all seven voted for extension of the current secondary standard. But a letter from environmental groups headlined by the Environmental Defense Fund argues the EPA’s proposed rule is “deeply flawed.”

Ozone is formed due to chemical interactions involving solar radiation and precursor pollutants including volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides. Each state develops an implementation plan to limit ozone, and those restrictions often translate to manufacturing permit conditions that specify air emission controls.

 
 

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