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The Bureau of Labor Statistics said that consumer prices edged up 0.1 percent in July, ticking slightly higher after being unchanged in June. Food prices rose by 0.2 percent for the month, but that was partially offset by a decline in energy costs of 0.1 percent. Since July 2016, food and energy costs have increased 1.1 percent and 3.4 percent, respectively.

Overall, the consumer price index (CPI) increased 1.7 percent year-over-year in July, inching up from 1.6 percent in June. Pricing pressures had accelerated over much of the past year, increasing from 0.9 percent year-over-year in July 2016 to 2.8 percent year-over-year in February. However, inflation has cooled since then.

Similarly, core consumer prices, which exclude food and energy costs, have increased by 0.1 percent in each of the past four months. Excluding food and energy costs, consumer prices have also risen 1.7 percent over the past 12 months, pulling back from its recent peak of 2.3 percent in January. As such, overall pricing pressures remain modest and mostly under control for now. The recent deceleration trend in pricing pressures should give the Federal Reserve some breathing room on monetary policy.

The post Consumer Prices Edged Up 0.1 Percent in July, but Inflationary Pressures Have Cooled Overall appeared first on Shopfloor.

Today, the President issued an executive order to streamline the federal permitting approval process as a part of his infrastructure initiative. Specifically, the executive order will simplify the permitting process to provide for one federal decision that should be made within two years. Executive Order establishing disipline and accountablity in the enviornmental review and permitting process for infrastructure projects can be found here. Manufacturers welcome today’s news and have long called for federal leadership in reducing excessive red tape in the environmental permitting process for infrastructure projects. Accountability and transparency for all permitting decisions are critical to achieving a set of best practices and certainty that will encourage additional private sector investment and efficiency. Infrastructure should built in a period of a few years, not a decade.

The United States lags behind other advanced economies like Australia and Canada in setting reasonable policies and procedures that promote the expediency of project reviews while ensuring environmental protections. In terms of actual infrastructure systems, the United States does not even rank in the top 10 countries in the world. Shortening the average time for the approval on transportation and infrastructure projects will go a long way in reducing the uncertainty that discourages the private sector from engaging on critical public sector infrastructure projects.

Today’s executive order is one crucial step to addressing our infrastructure gap and manufacturers will continue to press Congress and the administration to move a major new infrastructure investment. The legislative calendar is crowded this fall with many priorities, but we know when Congress focuses on a challenge, solutions can be achieved.

In Building to Win, the NAM called for federal actions to streamline regulations so projects can get done more quickly, mandate accountability and improve efficiencies and processes to reduce the costs of delayed infrastructure. Manufactures are pleased with today’s development and look forward to advancing important infrastructure solutions with Republicans and Democrats so that we can achieve an infrastructure proposal that invests $1 trillion in our roads, bridges, drinking and wastewater, airports, energy infrastructure, transit systems, inland waterways, ports, broadband systems and railroads. Whether it’s congestion on the highways or at ports or an electricity or internet lapse that pauses our assembly lines, poor infrastructure systems disadvantage American manufacturers. The president’s executive order addresses the hidden costs of delay but let’s keep the momentum going and go further so that American infrastructure gets its needed upgrade.

The post Environmental Streamlining E.O. Opens Critical Relief Valve to Build Additional Infrastructure appeared first on Shopfloor.

Negotiations for revising and modernizing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) begin today, and American manufacturing workers whose jobs are dependent on exports are watching closely.

NAFTA went into effect in 1994, and since then, the United States has sold three times as much to Canada and Mexico. In 2016, the two countries alone purchased one-fifth of all manufactured goods made in the United States. This is a big deal for manufacturing workers and their families because those sales support jobs here at home—a lot of well-paying jobs. Sales of manufactured goods to Canada and Mexico, made possible through NAFTA, support the jobs of more than 2 million manufacturing workers.

When someone says that we need to abandon NAFTA to support manufacturing workers, they have the facts backward. It’s certainly true that NAFTA could use some improvements. After all, it’s more than 20 years old. A tune-up, if done right, could help, especially if it’s focused on eliminating remaining barriers to selling U.S. goods, raising standards to U.S. levels, cutting red tape and improving existing enforcement tools.

Those would be steps in the right direction. However, we should not blame manufacturing’s challenges over the past few decades on NAFTA. NAFTA has been a powerful tool to strengthen our industry and help manufacturers in the United States nearly double our production. It’s other policies that have held us back and discouraged investment in the United States—policies like our outdated tax code and our overreaching, complicated regulatory system. Our declining, deteriorating infrastructure has also hurt the industry and our workers.

So as negotiators sit down this week and again in the coming weeks to determine what NAFTA will look like in the future, I urge them to stick to the facts and help manufacturers build on the agreement’s accomplishments to improve, not weaken, America’s global competitiveness. Manufacturers will continue advocating a stronger, modernized NAFTA so that we can keep growing and thriving here in America.

The post NAFTA: A Win for Manufacturing Workers appeared first on Shopfloor.

This week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rejected a challenge by Sierra Club to the Freeport LNG facility, a natural gas export project in Texas. Sierra Club’s strategy was fairly typical in the playbook of challenges to infrastructure projects: argue that the permitting agencies didn’t consider X, Y, or Z, and hope the court either forces the agency to start over or take more time to review. Every extra day of waiting increases the chances the project will be shelved.

In this case, the complaint was that the Department of Energy didn’t adequately consider the indirect effects of building the terminal or the greenhouse gas emissions that could result from increased natural gas production. The D.C. Circuit denied each of Sierra Club’s claims. This is a positive development not only for Freeport LNG, but for the industry as a whole: Sierra Club has four more challenges to LNG projects pending at the same court on similar grounds.

Presidents Obama and Trump both agreed that LNG exports are in the national interest, yet we somehow can’t seem to stop fighting about them. For our part, manufacturers support free trade and open markets in the context of LNG exports. If someone sees a market opportunity to export LNG — and is willing to run the gauntlet of permitting laws and regulations necessary to build one of these multibillion-dollar structures — then the government shouldn’t be in the business of erecting  unnecessary barriers. That’s why the NAM has consistently called for expedited decisions on each of the pending LNG export licenses. These are massive infrastructure projects with deep manufacturing supply chains, and the federal government’s experts have found time and again that these projects will yield net economic benefits.

We’re glad to see Freeport LNG get over this latest hurdle and hope it is a sign of good things to come.

The post DC Circuit ruling a positive sign on LNG appeared first on Shopfloor.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis and the Census Bureau reported that the U.S. trade deficit declined from $46.39 billion in May to $43.64 billion in June, its lowest level since October. In June, the reduced trade deficit was largely the result of an increase in goods exports (up from $127.26 billion to $129.01 billion) to a two-year high, with goods imports slipping a little (down from $194.65 billion to $194.25 billion). Meanwhile, the service-sector surplus also rose to its highest point since June 2015, up from $21.00 billion in May to $21.60 billion in June.

The underlying goods exports data were mostly higher. Exports increased for non-automotive capital goods (up $826 million), foods, feeds and beverages (up $664 million), automotive vehicles and parts (up $386 million) and industrial supplies and materials (up $192 million), with reduced exports for consumer goods (down $325 million). In contrast, higher goods imports for automotive vehicles (up $1.01 billion), non-automotive capital goods (up $84 million) and foods, feeds and beverages (up $72 million) were offset by declines for industrial supplies and materials (down $1.06 billion) and consumer goods (down $719 million).

For manufacturers, exports have trended in the right direction through the first half of this year—a welcome development after weaker data across the past two years. Using non-seasonally adjusted data, U.S.-manufactured goods exports totaled $541.15 billion year to date in June, up 3.86 percent from $521.04 billion one year ago.

This reflects better year-to-date figures in five of the top-six markets for U.S.-manufactured goods: Canada (up from $134.57 billion to $139.86 billion), Mexico (up from $113.09 billion to $118.79 billion), China (up from $51.23 billion to $59.24 billion), Japan (up from $30.10 billion to $32.77 billion) and Germany (up from $24.40 billion to $26.12 billion). The lone exception was our fifth-largest trading partner, the United Kingdom (down from $27.50 billion to $27.40 billion), with marginally softer exports to that nation this year versus last.

The post U.S. Trade Deficit Narrowed in June to its Lowest Level since October appeared first on Shopfloor.

Over the last eight years, manufacturers have been forced to contend with a series of burdensome and damaging regulations, from unwise union rules, to counterproductive worker safety policies, to reckless environmental plans. The NAM’s Manufacturers Center for Legal Action (MCLA) has fought back in court, using our expertise and the power of our legal community to stop harmful actions and make important progress. And today, it’s clear that we’re not only succeeding but also inspiring others in Washington to take up the charge.

Promising Developments

Last week, the Trump administration released its Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions, which provided an up-to-date forecast on the work that administrative agencies are doing to reform regulations across the government. The news was encouraging for manufacturers. On a variety of fronts, the administration is marching in lockstep with the NAM’s advocacy. And at three agencies in particular—the Department of Labor, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency—the Trump administration is tackling issues that the MCLA has long been working to address in court.

Department of Labor

At the Department of Labor (DOL), we’re seeing increased efforts to enact smart, commonsense reform along the lines we’ve advocated. Leadership is expected to review issues around the “Persuader Rule,” which required employers to report to the DOL anytime they consulted with labor relations experts on union organization efforts—a clear violation of manufacturers’ constitutional rights, and the subject of the NAM’s successful litigation in Associated Builders & Contractors v. Perez. We expect the DOL to publish a Request For Information about the expensive and problematic “Overtime Rule,” which the NAM challenged and stopped in Plano Chamber of Commerce v. Perez—a case that the DOL examined before deciding to take action. In both cases, the administration is building on the MCLA’s efforts in court.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration

We’re also hearing promising news from the DOL’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In the coming days, the agency will issue a proposal to reconsider, revise or remove provisions of the “Injury and Illness Rule”—a rule that harms workplace safety by restricting employer safety incentive programs and drug testing programs. OSHA will also be addressing beryllium exposure standards that apply to construction and shipyard operations in a move that we hope will pave the way for similar work on fair beryllium regulations for manufacturing. And while the OSHA agenda doesn’t address the new “Silica Rule”—which halves the permissible exposure limit and mandates costly engineering controls—we’re optimistic that OSHA will consider reasonable modifications to the current silica standard. Addressing these issues, which the NAM has litigated in Texo ABC/AGC, Inc. v. Perez, Airborne v. OSHA and North America’s Bldg. Trades Unions v. OSHA, will make workers safer, processes more efficient and manufacturers better able to succeed and thrive.

Environmental Protection Agency

Finally, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is making significant strides in rolling back harmful regulations and streamlining unruly processes. The EPA, along with the Department of Defense (DOD), intends to review and rescind or replace the “Waters of the United States Rule,” wading through issues that the NAM has litigated in American Farm Bureau Federation v. EPA, Murray Energy Corp. v. EPA and NAM v. U.S. Dep’t of Defense. The EPA has also proposed to withdraw the Clean Power Plan—a set of regulations that the NAM challenged in West Virginia v. EPA—and to address implementation requirements for the 2015 National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for ozone, which the NAM argued in Murray Energy Corp. v. EPA would be difficult and expensive for manufacturers.

The Ongoing Fight

These are important strides forward. At the NAM, we’re excited about the progress we’ve made, and we’re pleased to have partners in the Trump administration who are dedicated to our priorities. But we’re not about to get complacent or rest on our laurels. It will be up to manufacturers and the MCLA to defend the progress we’re making when outside organizations and interest groups try to stand in our way by launching litigation of their own. We must be ready—and well-funded for that fight. We intend to redouble our efforts in court—to protect your interests, to advance your priorities and to stand up for manufacturers across America.

The post Manufacturers Regulatory Litigation Update appeared first on Shopfloor.