Section 301 of the Trade Act authorises the president to take retaliatory action if it is determined that a trade act, policy or practice of a foreign government is unreasonable or discriminatory and burdens or restricts US commerce. December 2019 saw significant end-of-year developments on the Section 301 tariff front. US importers should take stock of these as they plan for 2020.
The US International Trade Commission (ITC) recently began accepting petitions as part of the 2019 Miscellaneous Tariff Bill process. Under this process, a member of the public may request that Congress temporarily eliminate or reduce duty on an imported article for three years. Petitions are due no later than 10 December 2019 at 5:15pm Eastern Standard Time via the ITC online portal.
List 4A goes into effect, all Section 301 tariffs are to increase by 5%, the US Trade Representative deadlines loom and the president has ordered US companies to "search for alternatives" to China sourcing. This is your end-of-summer Section 301 China tariffs round-up.
The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit recently ruled that where the scope of an anti-dumping/countervailing duty order is ambiguous, US Customs and Border Protection has no independent authority to suspend liquidation without explicit instructions from the US Department of Commerce.
Mirroring President Trump's recent threats – which came just days after the Section 301 tariff on List 3 products was increased from 10% to 25% following a breakdown in trade negotiations between the United States and China – the administration has released a fourth list of Chinese-origin products that will be subject to additional duties. For these tariffs to become effective, the Office of the United States Trade Representative will need to publish a final notice after a public comment period and hearing.
Following a meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, President Trump announced plans for an "epic" trade deal with China. However, to date, Trump has declined to set a date for a signing summit with President Xi Jinping to hammer out a final trade agreement, for which the Section 301 tariffs have emerged as a sticking point. China has demanded that the tariffs be removed as part of any final deal, while the White House hopes to use the tariffs as leverage to ensure compliance.