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.
The European Court of Justice recently handed down its opinion regarding the European Union's competence to conclude its proposed free trade agreement (FTA) with Singapore. FTA proposals incorporating provisions on the protection of non-direct foreign investments or investor-state dispute settlement mechanisms should be treated as mixed agreements, requiring ratification from not only the European Union, but also each member state.
The European Union and Japan recently announced having reached an 'agreement in principle' on a future economic and partnership agreement. The final agreement is expected to boost EU-Japan trade by cutting red tape and scrapping duties. EU businesses importing from and exporting to Japan should prepare for the agreement's entry into force. This requires assessing the exact effect of the agreement on their operations and identifying potential opportunities and challenges.
There is much discussion about what kind of trade relationship the United Kingdom will have with the European Union following Brexit. Less often discussed is the trade relationship between the United Kingdom and the approximately 60 third countries with a preferential trade relationship with the European Union from which the United Kingdom, as an EU member state, currently benefits. Brexit will disrupt the United Kingdom's trade with these countries as well as with the European Union.
The field of trade defence instruments (TDIs) is among the most active in international trade law and their use could further increase as a result of the current wave of protectionism. In the European Union, which frequently makes use of these instruments, TDIs are based on the global framework set out by World Trade Organisation (WTO) law and on a number of additional conditions adopted at EU level. However, the EU legal framework must comply with WTO law.
The industrial assembly rules, which provide for a customs rate of 0% for certain car components, were recently amended by a joint order of the Ministry of Economic Development, the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Finance. In particular, the amendments reduced the required percentages of local production and extended the terms for achieving particular percentages of local production.
At the heart of the international trading system lies the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The WTO's primary objective is to assist in allowing "trade to flow as freely as possible", in order to promote economic development. In doing so, the WTO has several functions, including administering WTO agreements and serving as a forum for trade negotiations, whether multilateral or plurilateral.
The EU General Court recently annulled the anti-dumping measures imposed on imports of threaded tube and pipe cast fittings of malleable cast iron for Jinan Meide Casting Co Ltd products. The judgment highlights deficiencies in the EU trade defence system in striking a balance between transparency and rights of defence on the one hand and the protection of confidential data on the other hand.
Under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the European Union and the United Kingdom agreed to terminate or relax nuclear-related economic and financial sanctions, including related designations. Once the BVI 2011 direction is repealed, the British Virgin Islands' position will be further aligned with that of the United Kingdom and be in keeping with the relaxation of the Iran restrictions.
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 European Union is unique in imposing a strict internal regime of subsidy control. The purpose of such a strict state aid regime is to limit distortions in the common market as much as possible, in order to ensure competitive neutrality. However, the same level of competitive neutrality is lacking in the rest of the world, which may place EU enterprises at a disadvantage when compared with competitors in other World Trade Organisation member states.
Special economic zones were originally developed in Russia to attract foreign investment and establish new business areas. However, they have since proved ineffective and in June 2016 President Vladimir Putin announced the planned reform of the zones. Putin also declared that 10 of the zones will be closed immediately, and that responsibility for the remaining zones will be transferred to the applicable region.
The European Union must make a call on whether it will grant China market economy status by the end of 2016. Granting China market economy status is likely to result in cheaper Chinese imports into the European Union. This could be detrimental to certain EU industries competing with Chinese imports, but positive for other EU industries that source intermediate goods from China.
The Special Economic Zones Act has elicited much speculation about whether it is the right tool to promote Kenya's economic development. The act seeks to revolutionise trade in Kenya by creating a conducive environment for investment. 'Special economic zones' are selected geographical regions where certain policies that enhance business are put in place. As far as import duties and levies are concerned, they are regarded as being outside the customs territory.
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.
Switzerland has followed the example of the United States and the European Union and imposed sanctions on Iran. However, the Swiss sanctions have no retroactive effect and contain no prohibition on the satisfaction of claims or the provision of technical assistance. Parties subject to sanctions have recently opted for arbitration venues that have less strict sanction regimes in place or no sanctions regime at all.
Recent reports of the influence of major oil and gas companies on the European Commission's position on energy in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations have attracted renewed attention in the TTIP energy chapter discussions. The European Union has called for the elimination of all restrictions on energy trade, including export measures.
Two recent decisions of the World Trade Organisation Appellate Body have arguably raised the standard that an investigating authority must satisfy regarding its price undercutting and impact analyses in order to render an affirmative injury determination in a trade remedy investigation without falling foul of its obligations under the Anti-dumping Agreement.
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.