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Executive Order Targets Critical Minerals and China

Stephanie Salmon

President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order in October aimed at boosting domestic production of rare earth minerals critical for a wide range of industrial and military applications (including metal castings), while reducing the country’s dependence on China.

The Executive Order directs the Interior Department to investigate the country’s reliance on foreign sources of critical minerals and to report to the President within 60 days (by late November) any recommended actions, including the imposition of tariffs, quotas or other import restrictions against China and other non-market adversaries. The Executive Order also directs the Secretary of Energy to publish within 30 days guidance clarifying whether projects to support the domestic supply chains for minerals are eligible for loan guarantees. 

The order notes that China has taken actions, including flooding international markets, to make it uneconomical for the U.S. and other countries to develop domestic sources of these minerals. The Trump administration has identified the following 35 minerals as critical and whose supplies are vulnerable to disruption: aluminum (bauxite), cesium, chromium, cobalt, graphite (natural), helium, indium, lithium, magnesium, manganese, platinum group metals, potash, the rare earth elements group, strontium, tantalum, tin, titanium, tungsten, uranium, vanadium, and zirconium. AFS will continue to update the membership on further developments regarding this important issue.     

USTR Seeks Comments for 2020 Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy 

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) issued a request for comments for a report to identify online and physical markets to be considered for inclusion in the 2020 Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy.

The Notorious Markets List identifies examples of online and physical markets that reportedly engage in and facilitate substantial copyright piracy or trademark counterfeiting. The issue focus for the 2020 Notorious Markets List will examine the use of e-commerce platforms and other third-party intermediaries to facilitate the importation of counterfeit and pirated goods into the United States.    

EPA Releases Draft National Recycling Strategy 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a draft National Recycling Strategy in October. The strategy organizes high-level actions around three strategic objectives to improve the U.S. recycling system: (1.) reduce contamination, (2.) increase processing efficiency, and (3.) improve markets. The draft strategy is available for public comment through December 4, 2020, with the goal of finalizing it in early 2021. 
The draft strategy examines what factors are stressing the recycling system in the U.S. and which materials can be recycled to reduce markets for those products.   
CDC Broadens “Close Contact” Guidance in Tracing COVID Infections 

On October 21, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued updated guidelines defining “close contact” as being within six feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period.  Previously, it was an exposure period of 15 consecutive minutes.

This definition applies without regard to whether facemasks were used either by the newly infected person or the person(s) with whom close contact was had. This new definition will impact metalcasting facilities and other workplaces, where people spend all day together off and on.

Metalcasters must adjust correspondingly to accurately identify multiple brief interactions over a 24-hour period by a newly infected individual. Moreover, the number of people required to quarantine under this updated guidance is almost certain to increase. To ensure compliance with CDC’s new guidelines, metalcasters should also continue to update their policies, procedures and record-keeping practices. For additional COVID-19 resources, view AFS’ COVID-19 resource page at www.afsinc.org/afs-covid-19-coronavirus-resources.