China to impose tariffs on scrap imports from the US

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In response to the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR’s) office publishing its final list of $16 billion in Chinese goods that will be subject to an additional tariff of 25 percent as of Aug. 23, China began to impose an additional tariff of 25 percent on certain goods, including scrap, imported from the U.S. that same date.

The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), Washington, says the U.S. exported a total of $5.6 billion worth of scrap commodities to China in 2017. Through the first six months of 2018, the total of U.S. scrap exports to China was $2.2 billion, a decrease of 24 percent from the same period last year.

According to ISRI, the tariff codes affected by China’s retaliatory measures are:

  • 3915 plastics;
  • 4707 paper;
  • 7204 ferrous;
  • 7404 copper;
  • 7503 nickel;
  • 7602 aluminum;
  • 7802 lead;
  • 7902 zinc;
  • 8002 tin; and
  • 8104 other base metals.

“ISRI is already hearing from contacts in China that the announcement has caused consternation among Chinese consumers of U.S. scrap commodities,” the association said in a statement regarding China’s most recent round of tariffs. “Although these tariffs will not be levied on imports from other countries, it is our understanding that other regions may not be able to fulfill all of China’s demand. This is in line with other reports that have discussed the impact the trade war has had on the Chinese economy across many sectors.

“ISRI regrets that the trade dispute between the United States and China continues to escalate without any indication that the two governments will be negotiating an agreement on trade,” the association continued. “There is no doubt that these tariffs will impair the already diminishing scrap exports from the United States to China.”

The most recent tariffs announced by the USTR were part of the U.S. response to what it claims are China’s unfair trade practices related to the forced transfer of American technology and intellectual property. This is the second round of tariffs the U.S. has introduced on goods from China. The first round of tariffs, which affected nearly $34 billion in Chinese goods under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, went into effect July 6.

The list of Chinese goods taxed as of Aug. 23 from the USTR’s office contains 279 of the original 284 tariff lines that were on a proposed list announced June 15. Changes to the proposed list were made after USTR and the interagency Section 301 Committee sought and received written comments and testimony during a two-day public hearing in July.

In March, USTR released the findings of its Section 301 investigation that found China’s acts, policies and practices related to technology transfer, intellectual property and innovation are unreasonable, discriminatory and burden U.S. commerce. According to the investigation, China uses joint venture requirements, foreign investment restrictions and administrative review and licensing processes to require or pressure technology transfer from U.S. companies. The country also deprives U.S. companies of the ability to set market-based terms in licensing and other technology-related negotiations and directs and unfairly facilitates the systematic investment in, and acquisition of, U.S. companies and assets to generate large-scale technology transfer, the USTR says. Additionally, China conducts and supports cyber intrusions into U.S. commercial computer networks to gain unauthorized access to commercially valuable business information.

OSHA issues FAQ regarding the silica standard for construction

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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Washington, has released a set of 53 frequently asked questions (FAQs) to provide guidance regarding OSHA’s respirable crystalline silica standard for construction, which was developed through the help of an industry coalition, including the National Demolition Association (NDA), Washington. The development of the FAQs stemmed from litigation filed against OSHA challenging the legality of the silica rule. OSHA has also agreed to issue a request for information (RFI) on Table 1 to revise the table and improve its utility.

The FAQs clarify that many common construction tasks are likely to be outside the scope of the standard because they typically generate exposures below the exposure limit. In addition, tasks where employees are working with silica-containing products that are, and are intended to be, handled while wet, are likely to generate exposures below the exposure limit. The FAQs also state that many silica-generating tasks performed for only 15 minutes or less a day will fall outside the scope of the standard.

Table 1

The standard permits employers to select from two methods of compliance to control exposures to respirable crystalline silica: specified exposure control methods, commonly referred to as Table 1, or alternative exposure control methods. Employers that follow Table 1 do not have to assess employee exposures or separately ensure compliance with the permissible exposure limit. Table 1 includes common construction tasks.

The FAQs clarify that the Table 1 requirement that employers “[o]perate and maintain” tools “in accordance with manufacturers’ instructions to minimize dust emissions” applies only to manufacturer instructions that are related to dust control. Other information in these instructions, including recommended respiratory protection, do not have to be followed for purposes of the standard. The FAQs do clarify that handheld powered demolition hammers with bushing tools are covered by Table 1.

Housekeeping

The FAQs clarify that if employee exposure will remain below the limit under any foreseeable conditions, the prohibition on dry sweeping, dry brushing and the use of compressed air for cleaning clothing and surfaces does not apply. They also clarify that the prohibition on these activities only applies to housekeeping activities, not to the use of these practices to perform a work task.

Written exposure control plan

The FAQs clarify that the standard does not require employers to develop a new written plan for each job or work site. It requires only that employers have a written exposure control plan applicable to each work site. Employers may develop a single comprehensive written exposure control plan that covers all required aspects of the plan for all work activities at all work sites. The FAQs also clarify that when silica generating tasks are being performed, the standard is not intended to prohibit all employees from entering entire areas of a construction site simply because employees in those areas are performing some work involving the generation of silica. The rule calls only for minimizing the number of employees in the relevant work areas. The standard does not preclude employees from entering work areas where silica generating tasks are occurring when it is necessary for them to do so.

Medical surveillance

The standard’s FAQ list makes some important clarifications regarding medical surveillance. The silica standard does not preclude in-house health care providers from performing the required medical surveillance examinations. In addition, the standard does not preclude employers from receiving the same information that employees receive from the surveillance examination, if it is received for other purposes and through other means, such as through workers’ compensation records and proceedings. The FAQs also make clear that the standard requires employers to make medical surveillance available to qualifying employees, but does not require that employees participate in the surveillance.

Access to the full FAQ list is available online.