Biden Administration Delays Aluminum Import Monitoring, Requests New COVID-19 Guidance

It’s been a busy first week for the new administration, and some of its recent moves could impact the glass and metal industries. The U.S. Department of Commerce announced Friday that it is delaying the effective date of the final rule titled “Aluminum Import Monitoring and Analysis System” from January 25, 2021 to March 29, 2021. President Biden also signed an executive order on Thursday directing the Secretary of Labor to issue revised COVID-19 guidance to employers on workplace safety.

Aluminum Import Monitoring

The “Aluminum Import Monitoring (AIM) and Analysis System” final rule was published December 23, 2020 during the Trump Administration and established a website for the AIM system that consists of an online aluminum import license application platform and public AIM monitor.

The rule also requires importers, customs brokers or their agents to apply for and obtain an import license for each entry of certain aluminum products into the U.S. through the AIM system website. It requires license applicants to identify, among other requirements, the country or countries where the largest and the second largest volume of primary aluminum used in the manufacture of the imported aluminum product was smelted (subject to certain exceptions) and the country where the aluminum product was most recently cast. It also allows for the public release of certain import license data on an aggregate basis, as appropriate, on the public AIM monitor and applies the license requirement to all imports of basic aluminum products.

The effective date of the final rule was postponed until March 29 and Commerce is now soliciting comments on the final rule.

“This delay in effective date is necessary to allow the incoming administration time to review the final rule and consider any additional comments before implementation. Unless otherwise announced, the majority of the final rule will be effective on March 29, 2021. The remaining portions of the final rule concerning an option to state ‘unknown’ for certain fields on the aluminum license form will be effective on December 24, 2021, as originally stated in the final rule,” reads the document announcing the delay.

During the public comment period, the AIM system website will continue to be operational. However, licenses will not be required for covered aluminum imports until on or after March 29, 2021.

COVID-19 Safety

Biden’s executive order on protecting worker health and safety directs the Secretary of Labor, acting through the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, to issue revised guidance to employers on workplace safety during the COVID-19 pandemic within two weeks. The Secretary of Labor must also consider whether any emergency temporary standards on COVID-19, including mask wearing, are necessary. If such standards are determined to be necessary they must be issued by March 15, 2021.

It also directs the secretary to review the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) COVID-19 enforcement efforts and to identify any short-, medium- and long-term changes that could be made to better protect workers and ensure equity in enforcement. OSHA must also launch a national program to focus its enforcement efforts related to COVID-19 on violations that put the largest number of workers at serious risk. Finally, the order directs the secretary to coordinate with related officials to launch a multilingual outreach campaign to inform workers of their rights under applicable law. The campaign will include engagement with labor unions, community organizations and industries.

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