While Election Day 2020 is more than a year-and-a-half-away, it already feels like it’s right around the corner. Throughout the country, politics are more polarized – and polarizing – than at any point in recent memory. However, the halls of Congress are operating much as they always have.
It’s easy to overlook the significant amount of legislation moving out of Congress every day that keeps the country going because there is so much public disagreement on the big-ticket issues. But those issues are the ones that keep the politically inclined up at night, so let’s take a moment to look at them a little closer through the lens of the composites industry.
International trade is always an important issue, but it is much more visible in the mainstream now than usual. It is also something that doesn’t fit neatly in the two-party duopoly: There is as much disagreement within parties as between parties. For the composites industry, the current dialogue on international trade is a mixed bag.
On one hand, the global steel and aluminum tariffs are causing an increase in the cost of raw materials used by composites companies for machinery, molds, and tooling. For composite products that are a component of a broader system – like farm equipment, for example – the increased costs of metal components can drive up the consumer cost of the final product and have an overall negative impact on sales.
But there’s more to the story. If a composite product can fully replace a steel or aluminum product that’s gone up in price, like some construction products, the composite alternative may be even more attractive financially than before.
However, the cost of some composite raw materials have been impacted as well. Some fibers and specialty chemicals used by the industry have been included on last year’s tariffs on Chinese products. It is important to note, though, that despite some negative ramifications of the trade war, the administration’s actions against China are due largely to a trade imbalance that has led to American manufacturers facing considerably higher tariffs to do business in China than Chinese manufacturers have faced in the United States. There are also concerns with intellectual property theft and currency manipulation that provide additional rationale.
The climate debate is another issue with sweeping implications on our industry. Generally speaking, composites are an environmentally-preferred solution. They require less energy to produce and are long-lasting and durable. And should they end up in a landfill, they are chemically inert and will not harm the surrounding area. ACMA and the industry overall have made a huge commitment to and investment in composite recycling, which moves us even farther up the sustainability curve.