March 9, 2018 Capitol Update

In this issue:


President Trump’s recent announcement of his intention to impose 25 percent tariffs on steel imports and 10 percent tariffs on aluminum have caused a global outcry, with stocks crashing and energy industry leaders expressing opposition and concern following the announcement. The decision fulfills Trump’s commitment to crack down on the country’s trade partners that he made on the campaign trail. It also comes following a set of Commerce Department investigations that concluded steel and aluminum imports pose a threat to U.S. national security, and harm the domestic production output of both industries.

President Trump later expanded on his decision, citing NAFTA as justification for taking such a strong stance against close trade partners Canada and Mexico, tweeting out “we have large trade deficits with Mexico and Canada. NAFTA, which is under renegotiation right now, has been a bad deal for U.S.A. Massive relocation of companies and jobs. Tariffs on steel and aluminum will only come off if new and fair NAFTA agreement is signed.” The United States in fact enjoys a trade surplus with Canada, and economic studies have found little negative impact from NAFTA, as overall trade levels account for only a small portion of U.S. GDP. 

The proposed tariffs could hit the U.S. energy sector hard, with oil and gas pipeline interests concerned about increased prices for infrastructure materials just as the U.S. oil and gas production is set for an expansion. 

Alaska Senator Daniel Sullivan (R), speaking at CERAWEEK 2018, said he believes sweeping tariffs would raise costs for the energy sector, particularly on the oil and gas sector and pipeline developers in particular. The steel needed for many pipeline products is manufactured in only three countries, making segments of the industry dependent on imports from abroad. 

In a deviation from his usual solidarity with the President, House Speaker Paul Ryan issued a rebuttal to the decision, stating “We are extremely worried about the consequences of a trade war and are urging the White House to not advance with this plan. The new tax reform law has boosted the economy and we certainly don’t want to jeopardize those gains.” Members of the House Ways and Means Committee have also drafted a letter voicing their opposition.

For more information on the Commerce Department’s findings related to steel and aluminum imports, visit:


The National Science Foundation (NSF) has released its FY19 budget with a topline request of $7.47 billion, a figure that is consistent with FY17 appropriations. The budget request looks to expedite NSF’s “10 Big Ideas for Future Investments” program, promising funding to interdisciplinary areas that integrate different science and engineering fields to create new areas of collaboration amongst industry, academia and government. NSF is looking to dedicate $30 million each to six research-focused programs under the “Big Ideas” initiative:

  • Harnessing the Data Revolution (HDR)
  • The Future of Work at the Human Technology Frontier (FW-HTF)
  • Windows on the Universe (WoU): The Era of Multimessenger Astrophysics
  • The Quantum Leap (QL): Leading the Next Quantum Revolution
  • Understanding the Rules of Life (URoL): Predicting Phenotype
  • Navigating the New Arctic (NNA)

In addition to the Big Ideas, the budget request commits $20 million to the NSF INCLUDES program, which looks to increase participation in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. The program represents approximately 27 percent of the total federal academic basic research budget. NSF Director France Cordova summed up the budget request, stating, “NSF challenges the research community to innovate, and we hold our agency to the same standard of constantly improving and progressing. This budget request would allow NSF to build on the important work done by our directorates within individual fields by encouraging convergence among different disciplines in science and engineering and collaboration with partners in different sectors. Investments that incorporate such an approach will accelerate U.S. innovation.”

To view the full budget request, click here:

To learn more about NSF’s "10 Big Ideas for Future Investments" program, click here:


The need for more Research and Development (R&D) funding has become a seemingly ubiquitous conversation topic with the Federal Government. In a move that drives home its importance, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released its report on “Trends Affecting Government and Society: Strategic Plan 2018-2023,” which delves into the status of R&D within the Federal Government. The report encourages further funding and development of these technologies to ensure long-term American economic and financial security, as well as maintain global R&D supremacy. Earlier this year the National Science Foundation released its 2018 Science and Engineering Indicators report, which showed that China has rapidly scaled up its R&D funding over the last five years and challenging the U.S.’s status as a global leader. For the U.S. to maintain its status, further investment in R&D must be made.

The GAO report identified five emerging technologies that, if given more R&D funding, could have a potentially transformative effect on society. These five technologies are:

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI)
  • Quantum Information Science
  • Blockchain technology
  • Genome Editing
  • Brain-computer interfaces and virtual reality

While the report lauds the positive influences of these technologies, it also makes a point of discussing their downsides. Looking at AI, as beneficial as the technological advances may be, developing machines to “think” and act more intuitively as humans do “could have potentially disruptive social impacts and create the need for workers with drastically different job skills, which could cause worker shortages.” Yet, despite the negative outcomes, at the end of the day it is still in the U.S.’s best interest to continue funding this research. As the report explains, “In an environment of increasingly constrained resources, particularly at the federal level, investing in R&D efforts in a strategic and coordinated way will be critical.”

To view the full report, click here:


The Canadian Government recently announced its newest project under the Innovation Superclusters Initiative. The Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster, located in Ontario, will bring together industry, academia and nonprofit to develop innovative, boundary-pushing new ideas. These experts will come together to elevate Canada’s next-generation manufacturing capabilities, such as advanced robotics and 3D printing, cementing the association of “Made in Canada: with manufacturing excellence.

A Government of Canada press release stated “The Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster aims to position Canadian companies to lead Canadian companies to lead industrial digitalization, maximizing competitiveness and participation in global markets.

Canada is not the only country to prioritize research and development talent-nurturing programs. China’s 1000 talents program and the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 initiative all point to a renewed interest in fostering R&D at the global level.

For more information on the Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster, click here:


Following on the heels of the release of the President’s budget, the National Science Foundation (NSF) recently released its report on “Transforming the World through Science.” The annual report, first released last year, highlights and discusses some of the impacts of NSF-funded basic research. The goal of the report is to highlight the importance of science and engineering funding at the federal level, by discussing the importance of basic research, the unique work of NSF, and exploring the positive impacts much of its work has had on American society.

“As the only federal agency that invests in fundamental, basic research across all non-medical fields of science and engineering, NSF has played a leading role in helping the U.S. secure and maintain its competitive edge globally,” NSF Director France Cordova stated in the report. The pressure to maintain this global leadership is stronger than ever with the rapid rise of China as another strong leader in global research and development (R&D). This was clearly shown in another NSF report, the 2018 Science and Engineering Indicators report that was released last month. Looking to the future, U.S. investment in basic research will play a key role in maintaining this global status, as well as the U.S.’s role as a leading technological and manufacturing innovator as shown in this report.

To view the full “Transforming the World through Science” report, click here:


Following on President Trump’s decision earlier this year to implement higher tariffs on imported solar equipment, U.S. solar company SunPower announced it is being forced to lay off roughly three percent of its total workforce, about 150 to 250 workers.

The new tariffs - up to 30 percent – will be imposed on all imported solar panel materials. This was a particularly damaging blow to a U.S. solar installation industry that imports approximately 80 percent of its solar panel materials. In addition to job cuts, SunPower also announced it will be postponing plans to continue with its $20 million investment in factory expansion. Along with the new investment, the plan was expected to create hundreds of new jobs for American workers.

As reported in the January 26 edition of Capital Update, President Trump’s solar tariffs announcement was met with significant backlash from those in the domestic solar energy industry. Solar Energy Industries Association CEO Abigail Ross-Hopper predicted that the tariffs would harm the economy and cause many jobs to be cut. Companies affected by the tariffs can apply for an exemption, but uncertainty around the process has disrupted regulatory certainty within the industry.

To view the January 26 edition of Capital Update, click here:

To view President Trump’s official tariff announcement, click here:

The articles contained in Capitol Update are not positions of ASME or any of its sub-entities, unless specifically noted as such. This publication is designed to inform ASME members about issues of concern being debated and discussed in the halls of congress, in the states and in the federal agencies.

ASME Government Relations
1828 L Street, NW, Suite 810
Washington, DC 20036

Paul Fakes is the Regulatory and Government Relations Manager, Technology Policy. He covers Standards and Energy and Environment.

Samantha Fijacko is the Senior Government Relations Representative. She covers Advanced Manufacturing, Robotics and R&D.

Anne Nadler is the Government Relations Representative. She covers Bioengineering, STEM Education and R&D.