Protecting Your Business – A World of “Opportunities”

June 7, 2018 | Over the past decade, The Toy Association’s government affairs and advocacy work has steadily grown from a near-exclusive focus on federal regulations to now encompassing all 50 states, a host of major cities, activist county legislatures, and local governments. Additionally, with each passing day, we are advancing more and much deeper into international work. I’d like to bring you all up-to-date on the international efforts made on your behalf and encourage your company to join one (or more) of our many External Affairs committees.

In the past year, The Toy Association has travelled globally and advocated for industry interests in 40+ countries, including those of the European Union, the Gulf Cooperation Council states, Indonesia, India, Turkey, Ecuador, Brazil, and numerous others. We filed comments with regulators on more than 15 issues of concern and have achieved success in numerous cases, with potential for others. In Brazil, we’ve been immersed in the pending INMETRO revision of toy certification requirements and the alignment of the MERCOSUR toy safety standard with ISO 8124. Meanwhile, Colombia has indicated they will allow for ASTM F963 compliance, and in Thailand, alignment with ISO 8124 was achieved.

Our team worked closely with U.S. government officials and foreign toy associations to raise industry issues with the World Trade Organization (WTO) Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Committee, commented on 10 specific issues, and successfully requested the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) to raise five issues. We led multipronged advocacy on Indian toy regulations, working through coalitions, the U.S. government, WTO, and international toy associations. These efforts meant the issue was raised in high-level bilateral U.S.-India trade dialogue, while resolution is still proving elusive.

Elsewhere, The Toy Association raised toy issues of concern in the 2017 USTR National Trade Estimate Report. We worked for successful revision of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Chemicals in Products (CiP) initiative from its original reporting/regulation model to an informational program. Our team presented on toy safety and compliance (with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the European Commission, and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) at educational seminars to 650+ attendees from Chinese and Vietnamese manufacturers. Finally, we advanced our priority of helping increase communication and coordination between our Association, Toy Industries of Europe, and the Southeast Asia Toy Association, while we directly collaborated on key issues with toy associations in Japan, Canada, India, and several others.

As for 2018 priorities, overall, we are working to expand our network of partners on these issues of concern to the industry, both in the U.S. and internationally. We will continue to institutionalize international toy association coordination and cooperation on international advocacy efforts. It is important we remain engaged with the USTR on technical barriers to trade and on their reporting for the National Trade Estimate.  Of course, we will continue to educate international manufacturers on toy safety and compliance. In Indonesia, we are monitoring toy regulations and will push for positive changes.  There is much to be done to follow up on outstanding comments filed with regulators and there are certain to be more filings on issues of concern to the toy industry. And, as always, The Toy Association will work closely with the U.S. government and foreign toy associations to raise industry issues with the WTO TBT committee.

What’s hot today as I write this letter? Tariffs, congressional interest in counterfeit toys, toy drone issues before the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), a host of state issues (especially in Vermont and Oregon), and some promise of progress in Columbia on the issues mentioned above.

Uncertainty and unpredictability related to the Trump administration’s course regarding China tariffs has kept us on continuous watch and communicating daily with key parties. The White House has now pledged to move forward with tariffs, investment restrictions, and WTO litigation. The final list of $50 billion in tariffs will be released by June 15.

Following the Senate Finance Committee’s hearing on protecting e-commerce consumers from counterfeits, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR) sent The Toy Association (among other trade associations, online retailers, shipping companies, and payment processors) a letter requesting information to help the committee better inform American consumers of the dangers of counterfeit goods, as well as curtail the illegal sale of counterfeits through e-commerce sites. The letter asks for information about companies’ brand protection efforts, how brands help consumers distinguish between real vs. counterfeit goods, asks about removal processes and test buy programs, etc. Responses to the letter are due at the end of the month and will be used to develop a white paper and additional congressional activities to bring awareness and identify solutions to the problem.

The Senate Commerce Committee is currently working on the FAA Reauthorization bill. Among their priorities is to tighten the hobbyist exemption for model aircraft and drones. The Toy Association is working with a coalition of other organizations to present a compromise solution which does not unduly restrict toy use. We have met with Senate Commerce Committee staff and they are open to the amendment language, but the coalition still needs to get buy-in from the FAA. The Toy Association is also working with the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) to see if we can identify non-legislative solutions that could potentially broaden AMA membership to include more toy drone consumers.

Vermont Senate Bill 103 would have made it easier for the state to ban or require reporting of additional chemical substances in children’s products; Toy Association member efforts resulted in a veto by the governor. In Washington State, the Departments of Health & Ecology have announced the start of a stakeholder process for developing a report related to six flame retardants and children’s exposure to these chemicals, and the Oregon Health Authority is still struggling to implement that state’s reporting requirements.

From federal, state, and county issues, to international issues and standards/regulatory developments, to intellectual property protection, marketing to children, internet-connected toys, drones, tariffs, barriers to trade, and a host of other issues, The Toy Association’s External Affairs committees are on the frontlines of protecting the business of toys. If you would like to participate in or simply monitor this vital work, please contact Ed Desmond, executive vice president of external affairs.

Protecting and promoting your business is a responsibility we take seriously every day.

All good wishes,

Steve Pasierb
Follow my posts on Twitter @StevePasierb