We are now over one year into the COVID-19 pandemic, and I hope you and your company are feeling more optimistic for the year ahead. Here at IPC, we are encouraged by burgeoning global conversations to address the future of manufacturing through the lens of COVID recovery. Electronics are at the heart of the global economy, and they will be at the heart of the economic recovery. This is something IPC has been repeating over the past year, and governments across the globe seem to be taking notice.
Please enjoy this monthly update on the latest government policy developments affecting electronics manufacturing.
Biden Unveils Infrastructure Plan, Includes Manufacturing Focus
Here in the United States, improving domestic manufacturing is a core tenet of the new Biden administration, particularly amid the backdrop of the ongoing global semiconductor shortage. U.S. President Joe Biden’s wide-ranging infrastructure proposal presents opportunities to drive growth and resilience in electronics manufacturing. The package, called the American Jobs Plan, is set to invest in American manufacturing and high-technology industries to better compete in the global economy. The proposal also offers incentives for domestic production of critical goods such as semiconductors, batteries, and clean-energy technologies.
Following that proposal, on April 9 Biden released the “skinny” version of his discretionary budget request for FY 2022, which highlights the priorities of the new administration. IPC is pleased to see proposed funding increases for vital workforce training, manufacturing, and research and development (R&D) programs. IPC looks forward to reviewing the administration’s detailed budget request, which is expected in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, a bipartisanship team in the U.S. Congress also introduced legislation that would create an office of manufacturing and industrial innovation policy in the White House. IPC supports this effort, which is consistent with our call for an interagency manufacturing policy lead in our policy agenda sent to the Biden administration. Focused, high-level leadership is critical as the U.S. seeks to develop and implement a robust manufacturing strategy.
IPC Encourages ‘Holistic Approach’ to Electronics Supply Chains
Going deeper on that theme, IPC is arguing that electronics must be included in any discussions on shoring up, and investing in, strategic supply chains. In comments submitted last month to the U.S. Department of Commerce, IPC and the U.S. Partnership for Assured Electronics (USPAE) affirmed that the U.S. Government must increase its support of semiconductor manufacturing but also the entire electronics ecosystem to maintain its global competitiveness. We urge the administration to take a holistic approach to technology and electronics, not just focus on a few links in the supply chain. Visit ipc.org/blog for more information on the ongoing supply chain discussions.
Our Government Relations (GR) team is also actively engaging on a bipartisan bill recently reintroduced in Congress to bolster U.S. technology leadership and competitiveness. IPC supports the Endless Frontier Act, which will invest in key technologies that are critical to U.S. national security and economic competitiveness. Electronics manufacturing applies to many of the key technology areas identified in the bill.
Advancements in semiconductor technology have always been intricately linked to advancements in electronics manufacturing, such as printed circuit board (PCB) fabrication and assembly, but the interdependence has grown even greater with developments in microelectronics. We will continue to make this case to Congress.
Europe’s Recovery and Long-Term Future Depends on Electronics
Over in Brussels, IPC recently released a marquee report outlining the role our industry can play in Europe’s COVID-19 recovery. The study illustrated how the electronics industry will be instrumental to Europe’s economic recovery from COVID-19 and its long-term green and digital ambitions.
According to the study, the electronics manufacturing industry accounted for €301 billion in production value in 2019 and directly impacted €3.8 trillion in European gross domestic product (GDP). However, today, the European Union accounts for only around 5% of the overall global production of PCBs and 10% of electronics manufacturing services (EMS), which are both key elements of the electronics manufacturing ecosystem.
The report comes ahead of crucial, upcoming decisions by the European Commission, which is releasing a revised industrial policy strategy soon, and by EU Member States, where COVID recovery plans are being developed for potential financial support from the commission. Read more about the study here.
IPC’s Latest Economic Trends Report
The global economic recovery from COVID-19 has continued with varying success. According to data from the latest IPC Economic Outlook Report, the U.S. recovery appears to be accelerating and further diverging from Europe, which is likely to see flat to negative growth in the first quarter.
The strengthening recovery in the U.S. will help other countries as well, including Mexico, Canada, and China. The overall global economy shrank by roughly 3.8% in 2020 but is expected to expand by 6% in 2021.
Here in the U.S., a key area of growth is the labor market. We should see the economy add jobs back at a fast clip in the next few months as vaccination rates steadily climb and businesses look ready to hire. IPC continues to urge policymakers to implement long-term, strategic investments to ensure a lasting, broad-based recovery.
IPC Launches Industry Initiative to Provide Guidance on ESG Practices
IPC recently unveiled a new Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) for Electronics Initiative to develop guidance for electronics manufacturers on an industry-specific approach to ESG practices and to develop goals that the industry can work together to achieve.
As part of this initiative, IPC has engaged electronics industry leaders and ESG experts to develop and distribute guidance on key aspects of reporting that demonstrate a commitment to ESG principles. This guidance is intended to help the industry meet ESG goals by providing industry-specific definitions, benchmarks, self-assessments, and recommendations.
IPC and its members take seriously our industry’s commitment to build electronics better. To build electronics better, manufacturers must do so with awareness and responsibility to ESG factors, fully integrating them into their business core. IPC’s initiative will weave together existing and new industry activities to support engagement on a range of societal concerns, including circularity and our renewed efforts towards eco-design and raw materials management.
OSHA Emergency Standard on COVID-19 Expected Soon
Meanwhile, environmental regulators have remained busy on several fronts in the U.S., Europe, and Asia.
On April 26, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sent its Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for COVID-19 to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for final review. The ETS, which will address workplace exposures to COVID-19, is a separate effort from other OSHA regulatory activity, such as its new COVID-19 National Emphasis Program (NEP). The timing for the review is unclear, but if and when the ETS is released, it is expected to take effect immediately. Read more about the ETS in on IPC’s blog.
EC Leaps Forward in Sustainability Reporting Requirements
In Europe, the commission recently took a leap forward in strengthening sustainability reporting for companies through the adoption of a proposal for a Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD). The proposal confirms the upcoming introduction of European Sustainability Reporting Standards (ESRS) and comes as part of a broad package of initiatives on sustainable finance. IPC will continue to track and advocate for a reporting environment that is workable for electronics manufacturers. Read more about the CSRD and the implications for our industry on IPC’s blog.
Interested in Chemical and Product Regulations in Asia?
And on the Asia-Pacific front, South Korea is the latest country to undergo an updated deep dive by our environmental, health, and safety (EHS) experts in 2021. Notably, an amendment of the Act on the Registration and Evaluation of Chemicals (K-REACH) was recently adopted, tightening the supervision of downstream users and sellers of chemical substances. This is just one of our nine white papers on the history of chemical regulations, current regulatory systems, and anticipated trends in the region.
Elsewhere in Asia, according to a recent IPC survey, government regulations on environmental, health, and safety (EHS) issues, especially those involving toxic substances and originating from the U.S and Europe, are a principal concern for IPC’s members in the region. If you are an industry expert and would like to participate in future educational events on environmental regulatory topics, or if you have EHS-related questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Help Shape Factory of the Future Migration
As always, there are plenty of opportunities for you to help IPC shape government policy leveraging your expertise. Most recently, we invited IPC members to participate in a new U.S. working group that will help prepare a policy roadmap for the Factory of the Future. The group will develop a white paper identifying policy measures that the U.S. government can implement to support the electronics industry’s migration to factories of the future, to be used by IPC to promote legislative and regulatory proposals.
Let me also remind you that all the content from our recent virtual IPC APEX EXPO is available online through June 13. From my perspective, APEX exemplified how the electronics industry has responded to the coronavirus pandemic: with resiliency, agility, and an unwavering commitment to build electronics better. Check out my top five takeaways from this year’s conference in my previous I-Connect007 article if you missed it.
IPC’s success in advocacy depends on your support and engagement. Please contact Alison James at email@example.com if you’d like to be more involved in our EU advocacy; or contact me or visit our Advocacy Center to get involved in our U.S. advocacy. On behalf of everyone at IPC, we appreciate you taking the time to share your voice and experience. Please let us know if you have any questions or suggestions for IPC advocacy.
Chris Mitchell is IPC’s VP of global government affairs. Contact him at ChrisMitchell@ipc.org.