From the Americas to Europe, Asia and beyond, the future of the electronics manufacturing industry is shaped in many ways by government policies.
This will be true like never before in 2018, as legislators and regulators the world over are eyeing policy decisions on issues such as technology research and development, taxes, workforce skills, and the environment. In the United States and Europe, heightened political turmoil is creating the possibility of unexpected policy shifts. Any one of these policy shifts could have multimillion-dollar impacts on electronics companies.
An old saying in political circles is, “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.” So indeed, our industry deserves a seat at the table, given that IPC represents more than 4,300 member-companies across the electronics industry—from design, to printed circuit board manufacturing, electronics assembly, and testing.
Roughly 60% of our member facilities are in the United States, 20% are in Asia, and 15% are in Europe. Our members provide electronics products and services for a wide range of important industries including defense, aerospace, automotive, IT and telecoms, industrial equipment, and healthcare. The estimated annual revenues of this industry are $2 trillion worldwide.
For all these reasons, as part of our mission to help ensure our members’ success in the global economy, IPC maintains an active, multi-faceted government relations (GR) program. For example, one of the traditional ways we communicate with government officials is through formal correspondence and sometimes face-to-face meetings where they work. IPC members and our policy experts are occasionally invited to testify before government bodies on important issues.
We also host annual “fly-ins” which bring Clevel executives from our member companies to world capitals for meaningful discussions of the issues. During IMPACT Washington, D.C. 2017, we facilitated meetings with more than 30 government officials. Within the last two years, IPC opened a new office in Brussels and held two IMPACT conferences there.
Another way we work to educate, and influence government officials is through our “Meet the Policymakers” program, which invites legislators to tour our members’ facilities and interact with the people who work there. In recent years, we have organized dozens of these visits, creating goodwill and a higher awareness of IPC and our policy priorities.
On one such occasion, a member site visit by Congressman Paul Ryan occurred just weeks before he was unexpectedly elevated to the position of Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, making it a very well-timed visit in terms of IPC keeping strong relationships with congressional leadership.
From time to time, we also issue Member Alerts, asking our members to call or write their elected representatives on issues of urgent concern.
Not only do we have to keep policymakers informed of our views, but we also work to educate and inform our members about the policy changes coming down the road. In 2018, we’ll continue to post frequent articles in the IPC Blog and IPC Global Insight e-newsletter; publish a quarterly e-newsletter on our advocacy work specifically; and host informational webinar and workshops on challenging policy compliance issues like taxes and environmental regulations.
Members in the United States can take their advocacy to another level by getting involved in the IPC Political Action Committee (IPC PAC). Political action committees are transparent, regulated entities in which U.S. citizens and “green card” holders can join together to support political candidates with financial contributions to their political campaigns. The IPC PAC supports pro-manufacturing candidates in both parties who are sympathetic to IPC’s policy positions.
All together, these advocacy efforts help our industry have an advantage in an increasingly competitive global economy.
How do electronics companies benefit from this work? One example is the 2015 PATH Act enacted by the U.S. Congress. This bill revived more than 50 tax provisions that had expired in 2014 and made the research and development tax credit permanent. Many of the provisions in the PATH Act were IPC lobbying objectives for many years; dozens of IPC members communicated with their lawmakers on this issue. Another example is conflict minerals. IPC has been a persistent voice regarding the cost and unintended results of conflict minerals legislation, both in the United States and the European Union. While IPC members are deeply concerned by the human rights violations that have occurred in central Africa, where minerals mining revenues have fueled local conflicts, we have supported an approach that is focused on conflict resolution, not placing undue burdens on upstream manufacturers. Today, the U.S. and European governments are addressing these issues.
For 2018, our global policy priorities include:
- Advocating for workforce policies that help IPC members attract and retain more skilled talent
- Strengthening the defense industrial base
- Ensuring that environmental regulations are based on sound science and a fair balance of costs and benefits
- Promoting a conflict resolution approach to avoid overly burdensome reporting that does not have the desired effect for conflict minerals
- Adding our voice to the rising debate over electronics and motor vehicles
- Advocating for intellectual property protection
- Ramping up our advocacy and presence in China and the Asia-Pacific region
- Supporting open and fair free trade agreements
- Advancing efforts to lower corporate tax rates while maintaining incentives for investment and innovation
Which of these policy issues concerns you and affects your company the most? We’d love to hear your insights and experience and are eager to have your participation in our advocacy efforts. For more information on our government relations efforts please contact Ken Schramko, Director of Government Relations .
If you plan on attending IPC APEX EXPO, I encourage you to attend two GR-related events to learn more about IPC’s advocacy efforts: a technical conference session on defense electronics on Tuesday, February 27, and a Buzz session on China environmental issues on Wednesday, February 28. For more information on these events, visit the IPC APEX EXPO show site.
1. IPC Political Action Committee2. KenSchramko@ipc.org or 202-661-8094.
John Mitchell is president and CEO of IPC—Association Connecting Electronics Industries. To read past columns or to contact Mitchell, click here.