In its first year, the Trump administration has tackled sanctions issues involving Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Sudan and Venezuela, as well as individuals involved in human rights abuses and corruption. In some cases, the result has been forced by Congress; in others, the president has 'made good' on campaign promises. Most have involved the heightened rhetoric and threats characteristic of Trump's presidency, but the rhetoric has often outpaced the actual action.
Following President Trump's recent memorandum, the Office of the United States Trade Representative has published a proposed list of Chinese products that could be subject to 25% ad valorem tariff pursuant to Section 301 of the Trade Act 1974. As expected, the list of affected tariff numbers is heavily geared towards the technology sector, including the aerospace, information and communication technology, robotics and machinery industries.
President Trump recently signed a memorandum that marks the start of a multi-faceted trade offensive against China. The memorandum is designed to respond to the administration's findings of misappropriation of US intellectual property and discriminatory technology licensing practices. In addition, the administration instructed the Treasury Department to propose restrictions on investment in the United States by Chinese-controlled entities and funds in certain industries or technologies.
Now that President Trump has made his determination on the tariffs to be applied as a result of the Section 232 investigations of certain imports of steel and aluminium products, boardrooms around the globe are pondering the short and long-term implications for their corporate bottom lines. Section 232 investigations have been rare and thus little legal precedent is available for guidance. That said, there are 10 questions worth considering.
At the end of January 2018, the Trump administration took two actions relating to the Russia and Ukraine sanctions programme under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act 2017, the law that President Trump signed on August 2 2017. While these acts did not result in the imposition of any actual sanctions, they do provide additional hints to businesses of where the Trump administration is heading in the months ahead, identifying risk areas that businesses can review and assess.
The Commerce Department recently released its redacted public version of the Section 232 reports on the effects of imports of steel and aluminium on national security. Both the steel and aluminium reports provide a range of options for the president to consider in restricting imports of aluminium and steel products. This news is expected to trigger swift and pronounced reactions from trading partners and affected US downstream industries.
The beginning of a new year often brings new regulations or changes to programmes. Customs programmes are no exception. Some key January 2018 changes for importers include fee increases, the expiration of the Generalised System of Preferences and changes to the tariff code.
The Trump administration recently took significant steps towards using economic sanctions to tackle international human rights abuses and corruption. The administration's actions underline the ever-growing importance of know-your-customer and anti-corruption due diligence and compliance procedures for international business.
Based on recent activity in Congress, the possibility of a shutdown of US federal government activities for at least a brief period is looming larger. Although it is unknown what the US Customs and Border Protection and other government agencies involved in import operations would likely do in the event of a shutdown, the 2013 federal government shutdown can be useful as a planning tool for importers.
The Department of Commerce, the State Department and Treasury each approach manufacturers, exporters and shippers as a way to gather information, understand a company or an industry and verify that the target understands the applicable export regulations. While these visits are often innocuous and as advertised, they may have an underlying purpose. How companies respond to these visits must be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
US Customs and Border Protection recently published interim regulations to implement the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015, setting out the procedural framework and interested parties' rights and obligations in the process. The interim rules have already taken effect, but a 60-day public comment period is now open and could result in revisions when the rules are finalised.
The Obama administration recently announced the easing of yet another set of sanctions on Cuba. The changes to the existing sanctions policy became effective through regulatory amendments to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations and the Export Administration Regulations. This marks the fourth set of amendments to the regulations since President Obama began efforts to normalise relations with Cuba in 2014.
President Obama recently signed the bipartisan Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act. This is the first major customs legislation enacted since the Customs Modernisation Act of 1993. The Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act focuses on facilitating legitimate trade and enforcing existing trade laws, such as those relating to intellectual property and trade remedies.
In the aftermath of the cyber-attack on the Office of Personnel Management and significant losses of corporate intellectual property, the Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) recently issued new cyber-related sanctions regulations. Once parties are blocked for cyber-related sanctions purposes, their names will be added to the OFAC Specially Designated Nationals List.
For the first time in 40 years, US companies may now export US crude oil to most locations without an export licence from the Department of Commerce. The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016, a massive spending bill that was passed by bipartisan majorities in Congress and signed by President Obama in 2015, has eliminated the export licence requirement.
The US government recently fined California-based technology company Barracuda Networks Inc and its wholly owned UK-based subsidiary Barracuda Networks Ltd more than $1.5 million for transactions relating to sales and servicing of equipment and software to Iran, Syria and Sudan. The products at issue (web filters, link balances, firewall products and server backup software) can be used to block or censor internet activity.
The recent announcement of the successful conclusion of the negotiation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement is a major accomplishment, but it may take time for each nation to obtain approval of the deal. This update reviews the approval process that will apply in the United States and the challenges that some prior US free trade agreements experienced when they came up for consideration during election campaign periods.
The US Department of the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control and the US Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security have amended the Cuban Assets Control Regulations and the Export Administration Regulations, respectively. The changes further align the regulations with President Obama's policy shift towards engaging and empowering the Cuban people.
The US Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has announced a $271,815 settlement with a US-based company for 48 alleged violations of various OFAC sanctions programmes. This enforcement action highlights the need for insurers and reinsurers to integrate economic sanctions into their compliance procedures.
The new Trade Preferences Extension Act reauthorises the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), effective from July 29 2015 to December 31 2017. The reauthorisation applies to otherwise eligible articles that were imported or withdrawn from a warehouse since the GSP lapsed on August 1 2013. Excluded, however, are goods that entered from Russia and Bangladesh, neither of which is currently eligible for GSP benefits.