NEW YORK As the U.S. government shutdown heads into its second week, scrap recyclers are beginning to feel the impact of agency closures and a reduction in government personnel, market participants told AMM.
Some said that a reduction in government services was slowing international trading activity. "I tried to get in touch with an American Consulate the other day and I got an answering machine," one scrap trader said. "I was looking to establish contact with a recycler in South Korea, which usually isnt a problem. Needless to say, I have yet to receive a call back."
Business with new export clients also has been affected by the shutdown, shippers said. One exporter said he had been trying unsuccessfully to file a set of documents with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for a new client in Canada. "Because I have not done business with him before, a new set of export documents have to be filed," he said. "Usually this would not be a problem, but so far I have not received anything from the EPA."
A second exporter said things were working smoothly last week, but a reduction of personnel at the EPA had caused major issues over the past two days. "They used to have 10 people in charge of export documents but now they have just one person," he said. "Basically, I cant set up any new business with export clients until the shutdown ends."
Additionally, a lack of government data could pose challenges for companies and traders that rely on daily figures from certain government agencies, according to Scott Horne, the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries general counsel and vice president of government relations.
For example, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics did not issue its latest monthly jobs report, which serves as "a key indicator of the direction of the economy," Horne said in an Oct. 7 letter to ISRI members.
Updates also will not be available on the website that publishes official foreign trade data. A notice posted on the site says that "due to the lapse in government funding, census.gov sites, services and all online survey collection requests will be unavailable until further notice." Similar notices appear on most government websites, added Horne.
A reduction in government data could present huge disadvantages for domestic exporters if the shutdown continues for a prolonged period, one scrap trader said. "We look at government sites for vital trade statistics, and the shutdown could pose a real problem if the data is not regularly updated."