The last four years have been turbulent, to say the least, with more changes to come under the Biden administration. Some issues from 2020 will remain in focus and will be tempered by the Biden administration's need to repair the damage done to US relations with key trading partners. This article aims to help businesses anticipate and prepare for these changes by examining six hot-button trade issues to watch out for in 2021.
US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) recently released the long-awaited United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) Interim Implementing Instructions, which signal the transition from the North American Free Trade Agreement to the USMCA. For companies operating in the United States, selling into the United States or buying from the US marketplace, these instructions should be viewed as an indication that the USMCA is on track for a possible Summer 2020 entry into force.
Effective 20 April 2020, the government has introduced a temporary 90-day postponement of certain import payment deadlines for companies and individuals experiencing significant financial hardship due to the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. This announcement follows a previously abandoned US Customs and Border Protection action to provide relief, intense lobbying on both sides of the issue and mixed signals from the Trump administration.
The US Trade Representative recently published a Federal Register notice requesting comments on the proposed exclusion process for List 3 of the Section 301 tariffs on Chinese imports. As part of various changes to the exclusion process, the proposal does not appear to include a mechanism for applicants to designate specific information requested as being business confidential on the current form.
Earlier in May 2019, President Donald Trump announced that the Section 301 tariffs on List 3 products would be increased from 10% to 25%, effective from 10 May 2019. He also stated that a fourth list of $325 billion in Chinese imports would be taxed at 25%. Meanwhile, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has stated that his office has "begun preparations to launch a process" for interested parties to seek an exclusion from the List 3 tariffs.
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer recently announced the Trump administration's intention to leave companies subject to the 10% tariff rate under Section 301 List 3 of the Trade Act 1974 without an exclusion process. In addition, due to the ongoing federal government shutdown, further delays are anticipated with the review of exclusion requests relating to Section 301 List 1 and Section 301 List 2.
Following the presidential proclamations regarding the imposition of double-digit tariffs on certain steel and aluminium imports (ie, the Section 232 tariffs), the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has published further guidance detailing their implementation. Given the complexity of these tariffs and the scrutiny that the CBP will be applying to imports of steel and aluminium from all countries, importers should consider compliance with these trade actions to be a high-risk area.