The United States Trade Representative (USTR) recently released two product lists relating to Section 301 duties. The first list is a culmination of a process that started on 13 April 2018, when the USTR published an initial list of products that would be subject to an additional 25% ad valorem tariff. The second list contains 284 additional product lines that will now undergo further review. Pharmaceutical products, textiles, apparel and footwear do not appear on the two recently released lists.
The secretary of the treasury recently stated that the United States was "putting the trade war on hold" pending negotiations with China to reduce the US trade deficit and address certain acts, policies and practices relating to IP rights. He subsequently clarified that his comments referred only to the proposed 25% tariff pursuant to Section 301 of the Trade Act 1974. These comments have raised questions regarding the status of the various safeguard tariffs announced by the Trump administration.
Canadian business leaders greeted President Trump's announcement that the exemptions for Canada (and Mexico) from the double-digit Section 232 tariffs on certain steel and aluminium imports will be extended. What happens next is anyone's guess, and no company should feel comforted. Company executives will need to stay well apprised of their cross-border transactions and take all necessary steps to mitigate the risk of border delays, import audits or North American Free Trade Agreement verifications.
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.
Before former President Obama left office in late 2016, the Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) published a list of FAQs to address the possibility of revoking the relaxed sanctions on Iran. Following President Trump's recent announcement that the United States is withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, OFAC has published new FAQs explaining how the re-imposition of sanctions will go into effect.
US Customs and Border Protection recently published guidance for claiming refunds on duty preference claims made under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) between the programme's expiration and the implementation date of its reauthorisation. The GSP programme promotes economic growth in developing countries by providing duty-free treatment of certain products imported from designated beneficiary countries.
Importers associated with industries where North Korean forced labour is known to be used must exert caution or be prepared to face the consequences. Failure to ensure that a company's supply chain is free from products resulting from North Korean forced labour will result in seizure and forfeiture of the prohibited merchandise, civil fines and possibly criminal prosecution.
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.
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.
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.
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.