Now that United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai has officially assumed office, there have been some early developments to take ownership of both the ongoing investigations regarding digital service taxes and the EU Airbus dispute. These developments are consistent with Tai's goal of rebuilding US alliances while continuing to address the challenges posed by China and other countries.
The US Court of International Trade recently issued a lengthy opinion which was sceptical of the longstanding use of first sale appraisement in non-market economies, causing an uproar in the import community – but is this much ado about nothing? Companies that have implemented first sale should rest assured that the programme is legally sound. Nonetheless, this decision may trigger increased US Customs and Border Protection scrutiny of the first sale programme.
Companies should review their supply chain and establish compliance plans because forced labour laws are here to stay. Two bills, both titled the Uyghur Forced Labour Prevention Act, have been reintroduced in Congress and may effectively ban all goods produced in whole, or in part, in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region unless importers can prove that the goods were not made with forced labour.
Following the region-wide withhold release orders (WROs) against cotton and tomato products produced in China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has provided XUAR-specific FAQs. The FAQs clarify CBP's approach to enforcement of the WROs and publish its requirements to satisfy the burden of proof to evidence that goods were not produced with forced labour. However, underlying challenges remain.
The US Court of International Trade recently took long-awaited action on the nearly 4,000 cases challenging the Section 301 duties imposed on goods from China. Chief Judge Timothy C Stanceu assigned the cases to a three-judge panel, which is expected to issue a case management order so that active litigation can proceed. Companies which have paid Section 301 duties on products from China that are included on Lists 3 or 4(a) may still have an opportunity to file a suit to potentially recover the duties.
President Biden recently signed an executive order (EO) to direct more spending of the federal government's procurement budget on American-made products, while rethinking the existing regulatory framework. By narrowing the loopholes that allow government purchases of foreign products, increasing agency accountability and directing agencies to seek out US suppliers, the EO aims to revitalise the domestic manufacturing industry and create American jobs in furtherance of Biden's economic recovery plan.
Just two weeks into 2021, US Customs and Border Protection expanded its enforcement efforts against forced labour in China. This follows months of increasing pressure from labour and human rights groups and members of Congress to halt imports of cotton and agricultural products from China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. In addition, the government is considering seeking increased enforcement authority to prevent certain importers from being able to import into the United States.