What Will Power Shift Mean to Flexible Packaging Industry?

Experts Offer Insights into Changes in D.C.

What Will Power Shift Mean to Flexible Packaging Industry?
Digital Exclusive

Now that Democrats have control of the House, Senate, and White House, policies of particular importance to the flexible packaging industry continue to be closely monitored by those who follow the trends in Washington, D.C. After Joseph R. Biden was sworn in as the new president on Jan. 20, FlexPack VOICE™ reached out to Alison Keane, president and CEO of the Flexible Packaging Association, and to Judith Zink and Liz Roberts, both with Capitoline Consulting LLC, to get their views on what to look for in 2021 and beyond. Capitoline monitors issues for FPA and writes a recurring column for FlexPack VOICE™ in the “Advocacy Corner” section of the magazine.

“The agenda will definitely shift,” Keane says. “However, with such a narrow margin between the majority and minority parties in the Senate and a smaller margin than in previous years in the House, I do not think we will see dramatic action. My hope is that we will return to bipartisan legislation and getting things done.”

The experts agree that the Biden Administration will be busy combating COVID-19 during its first 100 days, which is a historic milestone of all new administrations. But they expect that issues such as infrastructure, trade, and taxes will gain traction this year and beyond. Infrastructure plans will be a top priority and likely will include recycling initiatives, they suggest.

“Investment in infrastructure is a bipartisan issue and has widespread support in both chambers of Congress and the White House,” Capitoline’s leaders write in a response to questions. “While passing a large infrastructure package in the first 100 days is unlikely, we anticipate the introduction of legislation fairly soon, which will include many of the Democratic priorities found in H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act, that was introduced in the House last year.” That framework included more than $1.5 trillion investment to putting the country on a path toward zero carbon emissions and making communities and roads safer while creating millions of jobs, Capitoline adds.

And the push is on to improve recycling nationwide, too.

“Over the last several years, industry organizations, including FPA, have collaborated to develop meaningful legislation and to call on Congress to support federal investment in advanced recycling infrastructure,” Capitoline’s leaders say. “Industry remains engaged in these efforts and is hopeful Congress will agree that investment in recycling infrastructure should be a priority for inclusion.”

In the days after his inauguration, Biden issued a slew of executive orders on numerous topics, including one that took the U.S. back into the Paris Climate Agreement. Other executive orders of interest to FPA include ones dealing with repeal/reinstatement of environmental regulations, making changes to the regulatory review process, and repealing regulatory review orders of the Trump Administration. “We will not likely see near-term executive action directly tied to plastics or plastic waste, but climate change is definitely a priority for this administration, as is Environmental Justice,” the response from Capitoline says.

As for trade, the complex nature of negotiations means that any changes likely will take time, Keane says, adding that the hope is that there might be eventual relief over the tariffs with China. Capitoline points out that, ideologically, Biden is closer to former President Donald J. Trump, whose approach to trade did not reflect traditional Republican party support of free-trade policies. “As such, we do not expect quick sweeping changes from the new Biden Administration,” Capitoline says. “Given Biden’s background in foreign policy and his role in the Obama Administration, he is a known quantity to our foreign allies—and adversaries. What we are likely to see is more of a multilateral approach to trade agreements with more predictability.”

And don’t expect immediate, sweeping changes to the tax code, Capitoline’s leaders add. “The votes—particularly in the Senate—just aren’t there. There will be changes—but probably more gradual and on a piecemeal basis.”

One unknown remains: the impeachment trial and how divisive it is, no matter the outcome. “The tenor of the trial will impact the ability in both chambers of Congress to work in a bipartisan manner,” they also note.

Thomas A. Barstow is senior editor of FlexPack VOICE™.