The Government Circuit: As 2021 Nears, What’s on IPC’s Government Policy Radar?


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In the United States, Election Day 2020 has come and gone, and all signs indicate that former Vice President Joe Biden is the presumptive President-elect. We look forward to working with the new administration to advance policies that promote a strong, rapid recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, as well as increased innovation, investment, and growth over the coming decade to ensure the electronics manufacturing industry’s long-term success.

The U.S. economy is already facing headwinds due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic crisis, and a conflict-filled presidential transition could add more obstacles. COVID-19 cases are reaching even-higher heights, prompting some European countries to reimpose nationwide lockdowns, and more restrictions could be coming in the U.S. as well. IPC’s latest monthly economic report [1] shows an unsettled outlook in both Europe and the United States, serving as a warning sign for the months ahead.

Meanwhile, on another front in Europe, those concerned with chemical regulations will also want to take note of the recent launch of the Substances of Concern in Products (SCIP, pronounced “skip”) Database [2] and the subsequent notification process. October also saw the formal release of the European Commission’s Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability [3], an action plan for the next four years that focuses on electronics among several “priority sectors.” 

It’s shaping up to be a busy month here at IPC, heading into a busy new year. Here are some of the top issues we’re following this November. 

How Is COVID-19 Affecting the Electronics Industry Now?

Almost eight months into the pandemic, we are again seeing rising numbers of coronavirus cases in the United States and Europe, which could stymie the economic recovery not only in these markets but also in China and across the world. 

IPC Chief Economist Shawn DuBravac recently released IPC's October Economic Outlook Report [1], predicting an unsettled next few months. While the economic recovery remains intact for now, it is losing momentum, and downside risks are rising. 

On the bright side, the electronics manufacturing industry continues to hold up better than just about everyone else, and we hope this trend continues. However, electronics production in the U.S. and Europe is showing signs of slowing, following several strong months in the immediate aftermath of the pandemic. If rising rates of infection and further COVID-19-related restrictions continue, economic growth is all but certain to be curtailed and could delay a recovery to pre-pandemic levels to beyond 2022. We will be monitoring the situation closely. 

Please let us know if you find IPC’s monthly economic outlook useful and what other research you would like to see from IPC. Also, please be sure to visit IPC’s COVID-19 update web page [4] for the latest on how the pandemic is affecting the electronics industry and how to keep your business and workforce protected. 

U.S. Defense Bills Set for End-of-Year Agreement

All signs continue to point toward a final agreement being reached on the Fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) by the end of the year. 

This year’s NDAA could take an important step in addressing the United States’ shrinking electronics manufacturing base. Both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate have included common sense, bipartisan provisions in the legislation to bolster the resiliency and security of the electronics manufacturing ecosystem, including printed circuit board (PCB) fabrication and printed circuit board assembly (PCBA). Specifically, the legislation would require a rising percentage of bare and assembled PCBs and PCBAs used in defense systems to be purchased from trusted U.S. or allied sources. 

Several other industry groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Aerospace Industries Association, have been advocating against these provisions, claiming that the measures would be overly restrictive and costly. IPC responded to the opponents in a blog post [5]. While the status quo may be advantageous to some, we believe this is not a compelling enough reason to nullify a major step forward for American manufacturing capabilities. 

IPC will continue to advocate for measures to shore up supply chains for electronics related to essential governmental functions, including national defense. 

Trade and Supply Chain
Elsewhere in Congress, we are glad to see that policymakers are beginning to understand the importance of building a trusted ICT supply chain. A new report [6] by a congressionally chartered expert panel proposed a comprehensive strategy to ensure the continued availability and trustworthiness of critical ICT technologies. On October 19, the U.S. Cyberspace Solarium Commission offered a five-pillar strategy and 13 recommendations, with an emphasis on public-private and international partnerships. The strategy also supports “reinvigorating American high-tech manufacturing and innovation with partner nations to ensure continual availability of these goods and materials.” Please give the white paper a read and let us know what you think. 

Will We See a New COVID-19 Recovery Bill by the End of the Year?

The wait for a new coronavirus relief package continues here in Washington, but hopefully, with the November elections behind us, the wait may end soon. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on November 4 that “Congress should approve a coronavirus relief package before the end of the year,” Politico reports [7]. The overall price tag continues to be a sticking point, as well as aid for state and local governments, business liability protections, and the extension of federal unemployment benefits. 

However, the renewed optimism for a deal is welcome amid a persistent pandemic and increasingly unsettled economic conditions [1]. IPC continues to urge negotiators to reach an agreement soon and has called for a recovery package with pro-manufacturing provisions [8]. In a lettersent to the top four leaders in Congress [9], IPC called on Congress to support the following measures: 

  • Modified unemployment insurance benefits to continue essential support for laid-off workers, helping to maintain consumer demand while reducing disincentives to return to work.
  • Common-sense liability protections shielding businesses that have taken “reasonable steps” to comply with government workplace safety guidelines.
  • Paycheck Protection Program extension and the Safe and Healthy Workplace tax credit.
  • Supplementary funding to sustain and rebuild the defense industrial base.
  • Aid to state and local governments to ensure essential services are maintained.

We will continue to advocate for our industry’s needs and will keep you updated as negotiations continue.

A Busy October for Chemical Regulation in the EU

Environmental regulators had a busy October in Europe, and there are fresh opportunities for you to provide your input.

For example, the European Commission is actively seeking industry input on its Sustainable Products Policy Initiative [10], which will address and minimize the presence of substances of concern in electronics and ICT equipment, among other products, and likely expand the existing Ecodesign Directive [11] and ecolabel requirements. The initiative will also include tracing or tracking the presence of substances of concern throughout the supply chain for electronics products, building on the European Chemicals Agency’s SCIP Database [2] and the development of digitized product passport. The commission is expected to present a legislative proposal by Q1 of 2021. The feedback period [12] has been extended until November 16 if you want to share your thoughts.

Meanwhile, on October 14, the commission formally adopted [13] the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability [14], an action plan [15] for 2021–2024 with 70 measures to minimize the usage of substances of concern. The chemicals strategy drew praise from Sweden’s environment minister Isabella Lövin, who, speaking on behalf of a group of 10 European countries, expressed support for the strategy and comprehensive actions to “address the use of and contamination with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.” According to Cristina de Avila, head of the sustainable chemicals unit of the commission's Environment Directorate-General, the implementation of the strategy is also “likely” to require changes in the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization, and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) Directive [16].

And despite urgings [17] from IPC and others, on October 28, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) formally launched [18] the Substances of Concern in Products Database [2], while the commission rejected [19] the possibility of an ex-post impact assessment. Under the current timeline, the database is set to come into effect on January 5, 2021, just 10 weeks after it was unveiled for the first time. However, industry advocacy will continue, and IPC recently signed a cross-industry letter to the German Presidency of the European Union and heads of the European Council and European Parliament, reiterating the need for a more workable solution. Be sure to tune into the ECHA’s November 19 webinar [20] if you have any questions about the notification process, and let us know if we can help you.

We know it’s a busy time for policy in Europe, and we want you to be caught up on all the latest happenings. The IPC Blog staff recently chatted with Alison James, IPC’s senior director for Europe, about the bloc’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, as well as other issues facing our industry, from the “Green Deal” to chemicals regulation to supply chain resiliency. James highlighted that all policy going forward would be viewed through the lens of economic recovery. Read the full blog post [21] and reach out to Alison if you have any questions.

Please us know what you think of the recent chemicals action in Europe and how it will affect your business.

Join IPC’s Pledge to Stay Involved After the Election

On behalf of the U.S. electronics industry, IPC thanks the hard work of countless Americans, particularly poll workers and election officials in states across the country, who got through a historic Election Day amidst an ongoing pandemic. We were encouraged that, despite the coronavirus, millions of Americans voted—early, by mail, and in-person on Election Day—to make their voices heard. 

Now it will be time for our voices to be heard again in the halls of government. The IPC Government Relations team is composed of experienced professionals who work for you year-round.

However, the success of our work depends on the active participation of IPC members like you, and that’s why we’re asking you to pledge to be involved in IPC advocacy in 2021 [22]. With your help, we can start the new year in a strong position to advance our advocacy goals.

If you’re interested in politics and policy, you are invited to join our efforts in one of the following ways: 

  • Let us know how any public policies affect your business, or if you have questions or concerns [23]
  • Stay informed on IPC advocacy issues by managing your email preferences. By going to IPC.org and opting in to receive advocacy updates, you’ll receive beneficial news to keep you informed and engaged in IPC's industry advocacy efforts.
  • Browse IPC.org/advocacy to learn more about the issues we work on.
  • Join our Advocacy Team (The “A Team”). Visit IPC.org/a-team to send a message to your elected officials with just a few clicks.
  • Follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn
  • Be in contact with your elected representatives. Use the tools on IPC.org/a-team to identify your members of Congress and send emails or make phone calls; or seek them out at their local district office. IPC’s government relations team can help arrange meetings and provide you with talking points and handouts. 
  • Host an elected official at one of your facilities. You can offer a tour, a briefing, and/or a demo, as well as a chance for them to speak to your employees [24].
  • Attend one of IPC’s “IMPACT” advocacy events. IMPACT events give C-level executives a chance to meet face-to-face with government officials to discuss the issues we care about. Contact me or watch our newsletter for details. 
  • Learn more about the IPC Political Action Committee (IPC PAC). Contact Ken Schramko or visit IPC.org/PAC to learn what’s involved in signing up.

We look forward to continuing to work with IPC members and policymakers to advance policies that promote a strong, rapid recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic as well as increased innovation, investment, and growth over the coming decades.

References

  1. Shawn Dubravac, “Economic Outlook,” IPC, October 2020.
  2. ECHA, “SCIP Database.”
  3. European Commission, “Green Deal: Commission adopts new Chemicals Strategy towards a toxic-free environment,” October 14, 2020.
  4. IPC, “COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Update.”
  5. John Mitchell, “U.S. Defense Bills Would Bring Greater Resiliency and Security to Electronics Supply Chains,” IPC.
  6. Cyberspace Solarium Commission, “Building a Trusted ICT Supply Chain,” White Paper #4, October 2020.
  7. Marianne Levine, “McConnell calls for coronavirus package before end of the year,” Politico, November 4, 2020.
  8. IPC, “Electronics Manufacturing Industry Calls on Congress to Pass New COVID Recovery Bill with Pro-Industrial-Base Provisions,” August 4, 2020.
  9. Chris Mitchell, “Letter to the top four leaders in Congress,” IPC, August 4, 2020.
  10. European Commission, “Sustainable products initiative.”
  11. European Commission, “Sustainable product policy & ecodesign.”
  12. European Commission, “Initiative details.”
  13. European Commission, “Communication From the Commission To the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions,” October 14, 2020.
  14. European Commission, “Chemicals – strategy for sustainability (toxic-free EU environment).”
  15. European Commission, “Annex to the Communication From the Commission To the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions,” October 14, 2020.
  16. European Commission, “REACH.”
  17. IPC, “IPC and 40 Groups Urge European Commission President to Postpone Reporting Deadline for SCIP Database,” September 21, 2020.
  18. ECHA, “Tracking chemicals of concern in products – SCIP database ready for use,” October 28, 2020.
  19. European Parliament, “Parliamentary questions,” October 23, 2020.
  20. ECHA, “Get ready to submit your SCIP notification,” November 19, 2020, 11:00–15:00 EET, GMT +2.
  21. Alison James, “How do European Policy Initiatives Impact Electronics Manufacturing Competitiveness?,” IPC Europe.
  22. IPC, “Now Make Sure They Hear You AFTER the Election.”
  23. IPC, “IPC Government Relations Staff.”

Chris Mitchell is IPC’s VP of global government affairs. Contact him at ChrisMitchell@ipc.org.

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