At 100, AIA Eyes Tariffs, Workforce, Ex-Im Issues

 - February 19, 2019, 11:33 AM

Celebrating its centennial year, the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) outlined a four-pronged agenda for 2019 that focuses on government funding, trade barriers, a level playing field, and workforce issues.

AIA president and CEO Eric Fanning last week detailed the plans for the association’s landmark anniversary year, including the launch of three foundational studies that explore what the past 100 years of aerospace and defense have meant “in our daily life,” a Vision 2050 probe that looks at what’s ahead on the horizon, and a third long-term view of what is necessary for success in the next 100 years.

“One thing we do know, and it seems to resonate when we talk about this, is that when our industry is successful, what's good for our industry is good for the American economy,” Fanning said, noting the aerospace recorded $865 billion in economic output, had a positive trade balance of $86 billion (the largest of any U.S. exporting sector), had a workforce that has grown to 2.4 million people, and paid $220 billion in wages and benefits.

“When aerospace succeeds, America succeeds. Our country is safer, more prosperous, and more innovative.”

As far as challenges ahead, Fanning stressed the need for a predictable budget process to foster stable investments. This comes in light of a recent shutdown that disrupted funding for 35 days. “America needs federal investments that support our economic vitality, public safety, and the national defense strategy,” he said. “That means that agencies and departments must be resourced to execute their vital mission.” In addition, federally funding research must be a priority.

Noting concerns previously expressed about tariffs, Fanning also emphasized, “We must establish a positive trade agenda.” AIA supports the goal of policies that level the field and negotiations that could build on trade opportunities, such as ones that are ongoing with the UK and EU, as well as Japan. “These agreements, as well as efforts to resolve disputes on steel and aluminum tariffs, are important to maintaining American competitiveness,” he said.

As for the tariffs, Fanning said, “I'm glad to see some attention brought to the unfair practices of the Chinese,” but added that AIA remains concerned about the potential for “unintended or second, third order consequences.” AIA is encouraged that negotiations are taking place. “We are enthusiastic about the fact that negotiations are taking place, and we're monitoring them closely to see if progress actually happens.”

The association also continues its call for a full slate of board members on the U.S. Export-Import Bank. The five-member board currently has four vacant slots and has lacked the requisite three members for a quorum since 2015. A quorum is required for financing approval of sales over $10 million. Along with chairman and acting president Jeffrey Gerrish, the board only has two ex officio members.

“Without a quorum on the Ex-Im board, U.S. industry will continue to be disadvantaged in the global market by foreign competitors with access to their respective governments’ export financing agencies. Congress must reestablish the quorum,” Fanning said.

He further stressed the need for regulations that not only keep a level playing field but also foster advancements such as supersonics and coordinate internationally in areas such as emissions. Further, the U.S. should support strong intellectual property protections, Fanning added.

He highlighted a number of issues surrounded workforce, but stressed Congress needs to fund initiatives that support STEM and other student grants.