ISRI investigates reports of Chinese policy changes

© Olivier Le Queinec | Dreamstime

Officers and staff members of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), Washington, say they have conducted several meetings on both sides of the Pacific Ocean to try to investigate reports and rumors about China’s future policies toward imported recyclables.

In a conference call with invited media members Tuesday, June 14, 2017, ISRI President Robin Wiener and several other staff members offered a recap of meetings held in the previous 30 days in Hong Kong, Beijing and Washington with recyclers, consumers and government agencies.

Wiener pointed to the importance of the scrap trade between the United States and China, referring to it as generating $5.6 billion annually and being a form of economic activity that affects “tens of thousands of jobs.” She added, “In any given year, approximately one-third of scrap materials from the United States goes to export,” with China as the leading destination by a wide margin.

She also commented that beyond the National Sword campaign, which has been targeting material quality and smuggling and has focused largely on plastic scrap, new concerns center on an April 18, 2017, report in China’s media that the central government had approved making additions to an existing list of scrap or discarded materials that cannot enter the country.

Rumors attached to that report have touched upon mixed metals, wire and cable and other materials that have traditionally been imported in large volumes. Wiener said such rumors have gained widespread attention, but thus far no specific commodities have been officially identified for banning.

Wiener said delegations that often include her as well as ISRI Senior Director of International Relations Adina Renee Adler and Director of Commodities Joe Pickard have met with officials at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, with the Chinese Embassy in Washington and with China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ).

Regarding the meeting with AQSIQ, Adler said the ISRI delegation learned the agency is revising its Regulation No. 119, “which tells our members what their obligations are to export commodities to China.” She said the agency was not able to offer clarity on the nature of those changes to Regulation No. 119.

Wiener said the National Sword campaign, which started in early 2017, and the potentially phased-in import ban appear to be motivated by different factors. While the National Sword campaign is concerned with quality and smuggling, she said the import ban “appears to be more of a market issue rather than anything else.” She said that issue pertains to China’s government trying to boost its own domestic scrap collection infrastructure.

When asked whether that amounted to a form of protectionism, Adler said, “I would not use the ‘p’ word,” but she added that “maybe there is a driver there” in the form of China trying to support its domestic recycling collection efforts.

FMCSA proposes two CDL requirement changes

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in Washington has announced two proposals designed to take steps to respond to a national shortage of qualified truck and bus drivers by simplifying obtaining a commercial driver’s license (CDL) and reducing administrative expenses to the driver applicant and state driver licensing agencies.

“Taken together, these two proposals will help ease the entry for thousands of qualified individuals into career opportunities as professional truck and bus drivers—a critical occupation facing an acute labor shortage in our country,” says FMCSA Deputy Administrator Daphne Jefferson. “We could eliminate unnecessary burdens to both the applicants and to the states, save time, reduce costs and, most importantly, ensure that states only issue commercial driver’s licenses to well-trained, highly qualified individuals.”

FMCSA is seeking public comment for 60 days following formal publication June 12 in the Federal Register of the following two notices of proposed rulemakings (NPRM):

  • Military licensing and state CDL reciprocity – This proposed rule would allow state driver licensing agencies to waive the CDL knowledge test for qualified veterans and active duty personnel, including National Guard and Reserves, seeking to obtain a civilian CDL. This waiver is designed to simplify processing and reduce costs for states and for qualified individuals. Since 2012, FMCSA has allowed states to waive the CDL skill test requirement for qualified veterans and active duty personnel. More than 18,800 individuals have transitioned from their military service into the U.S. civilian jobs as commercial truck and bus drivers under the waiver opportunity.
  • Commercial learner’s permit validity – This proposed rule would allow states to issue a CDL learner’s permit with an expiration date of up to one year, replacing the current six-month limitation. This flexibility is designed to eliminate paperwork requirements for states. It also is designed to eliminate retesting and additional fees presently incurred by individuals who seek an additional 180-day renewal of their CDL learner’s permit.

“At the core of both proposals is safety of the motoring public,” says Jefferson. “We will continue to demand that commercial truck and bus drivers and their employers adhere to the safety standards that exist to protect all drivers.”