Tricks of the Trade

Trading with China – New Reasons to Be Wary!

By Susan Kohn Ross

portToday, President Trump signed into law H.R. 3364, the “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act”. The general press is covering this story by writing about Russia’s initial retaliation taking the form of cutting the staff authorized at the U.S. embassy in Moscow and the seizure of certain U.S. diplomatic property within Russia. When it comes to international traders, the impact on dealing with Russia, but also Iran and North Korea, takes the form of enhanced compliance efforts.

The new law will provide more in the way of direct and indirect sanctions. A direct sanction arises because the person (or company/entity) is listed by one of the relevant U.S. agencies on the appropriate blocked persons list. A secondary sanction arises because a blocked person (individual or entity) owns or has a controlling ownership in a company not otherwise listed as blocked. Of course, additional headaches exist when there is U.S. content in the good being sold, so the impact is on both exports and imports. (more…)

Trump’s Cuba Course Clarified

Trade ConceptBy Susan Kohn Ross

“Trump cracks down on Cuba” or variations on that phrase have peppered the general press since Friday, when the President announced his policy towards Cuba.  When you read what was actually written, you come away with a more tempered reaction. Yes, there will be changes, and the most critical one is yet to come, but we focus here on what was actually written.

First, the format is not an Executive Order but rather a June 16, 2017 “National Security Presidential Memorandum on Strengthening the Policy of the United States Towards Cuba” accompanied by a Fact Sheet. The memo can be found here, and the Fact Sheet here. So, nothing changes right away.

Taken together, there are two points that could impact international traders. (more…)

Romaine Calm: FSVP is Approaching

By Susan Kohn Ross

Does FSVP Apply to You?

Are you the importer, consignee, or agent for food imported into the United States?  If so, the Foreign Supplier Verification Program for Importers of Food for Humans and Animals (FSVP), a key element of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), likely applies to you.  Implementation of the FSVP will begin on May 30, 2017, but categories of companies or foods may be subject to later compliance deadlines.  Where do you fit?

The FSVP regulations aligns with key components of the FDA’s overall food safety plan for facilities that manufacture, process, pack or hold food which must now establish and follow the regulations regarding current good manufacturing practice (CGMP) and hazard analysis and risk-based preventive controls for human food and animal food (Preventive Controls or PC).

What Is FSVP? (more…)

Due Your Duty

By Susan Kohn Ross

With the ever-increasing scrutiny being brought to compliance and the payment of duties on imported goods by Customs and Border Protection (CBP), it is worth commenting that any duties which are due when an entry liquidates may, in fact, end up having to be paid even if the related protest remains pending due to the legal and contractual relationship between the importer and his surety company.  Simply put, if a surety insists on receiving payment of any amounts demanded by CBP upon liquidation, the importer does not have any solid grounds to object.  Why would the surety do so if a protest is pending? Because the surety is looking to mitigate its risk. If the importer does not pay, the surety will have to do so, at least up to the face amount of any bonds it has written, and sureties try their best not to be put in that position. (more…)

Buy American Executive Order

By Susan Kohn Ross

On April 18th, President Trump issued an Executive Order (“EO” or “Order”) focused on the Buy American  laws and regulations. See Buy American EO.  This EO directs federal government entities to review their procurement rules so that, to the extent legally permitted, preference is given to American made goods.  Section 2 specifically states: “[i]t shall be the policy of the executive branch to buy American and hire American”.  At the same time,  the EO confirms:  “[n]othing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect … existing rights or obligations under international agreements”.  So, what does this EO mean to the private sector when it comes to government contracting?

First, it is important to keep in mind the review triggered by this Order applies only to federal procurement. States and other governmental entities have their own rules. They cannot contradict the federal rules, but they can be different.

Next, nothing in this Order has any impact on privately funded projects. The typical example given in the general press is the Keystone Pipeline. Nonetheless,  the point is you are only impacted if you are providing or intend to provide goods to a U.S. government entity. (more…)

Protecting Your Brand Overseas

By Evan M. Kent

It has been my experience that when many U.S. clients expand their businesses beyond national borders, they are unaware that their U.S. trademark registrations provide no protection in foreign jurisdictions.

Trademark ownership provides important commercial and legal benefits including the exclusive right to use the registered trademark and the right to sell or license it to another for profit. Further, trademark ownership gives one legal standing to prevent others from using or attempting to register similar or identical trademarks. Trademarks are considered to be tangible assets of the owner and add to the value of the shares of a company. If you are an exporter, or thinking about exporting in the future, you should seriously consider securing protection for your trademarks at the earliest possible date in those foreign markets which are or could be of interest. (more…)

DOJ Defines Compliance

By Susan Kohn Ross

In the span of the last 18 months, the topic of corporate compliance programs has gotten considerable attention from the Department of Justice  (“DOJ”) and now finally, DOJ has published significant details about how it is likely to measure the sufficiency of any company’s compliance program.

First, some background.  In September 2015, the Yates memo was published, see DOJ Sets Its Sights on Officers and Directors for more details. In short, then Deputy Attorney General Yates reminded the DOJ offices nationwide, if a corporation has violated the law,  its level of cooperation will be measured, in large part, by whether it provides “all” the relevant details, which means did the company identify the individuals whose actions or inactions resulted in the violations under consideration, and provide supporting documentation to show what happened and how those individuals were involved. If the company did not do so, it does not get full credit under the Sentencing Guidelines. (more…)

Is the Border Tax Crossing the Line?

By Susan Kohn Ross and Jeffrey D. Davine

It is far too early to discern the extent of any change to the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico in the face of the oft-repeated insistence of the Trump campaign to “renegotiate” NAFTA, a promise that was reiterated once Mr. Trump was sworn into office. Following a prickly meeting last month between President Trump and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, accounts from Mexico report the government as having started consultations with its business community, a process described as taking 90 days. The results of those consultations and how they might impact any further discussions with the U.S. remain to be seen. Similarly, President Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also met last month, but under somewhat more cordial circumstances. Again, next steps with Canada remain an open question. However, the overarching theme is the oft-repeated promise from the Trump Administration that a border tax will be imposed.  While nothing concrete has been proposed to date, how such a border tax might work has understandably caused varying levels of concern among American companies. Given there is nothing concrete to examine, in this Alert, we seek to provide a brief explanation of the concepts being bandied about. (more…)

Appraising Produce

By Susan Kohn Ross

In July 2016, the Houston Regulatory Audit office sent a letter to a number of large importers cautioning them to be sure their value declarations were correct, underscoring CBP’s position by pointing recipients to a long list of CBP informed compliance publications, and touting the advantages of correcting any errors by way of a prior disclosure.

Now we see Round 2. In early October 2016, the Agriculture and Prepared Products Center for Excellence and Expertise (“Center”) sent a letter to many fruit and vegetable importers asking more value questions. Specifically, the Center wanted to know:

  1. Was the importer purchasing his goods or receiving them on consignment?
  2. Are the parties related?
  3. From which suppliers is the importer purchasing?
  4. From which suppliers are the goods received on consignment?
  5. If on consignment, how are the goods being valued at time of entry?
  6. Is reconciliation filed?  If not, what actions does the company take to determine if the actual cost of goods is more or less than the value declared at time of entry?

It is this last question that ties right into the revenue collection role of Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Is CBP collecting the right amount at time of entry? If the value is too low at time of entry, it must be corrected. Similarly, if it is too high, it should also be corrected. (more…)

It’s All About Compliance

Part 2 – Import Classification 

By Susan Kohn Ross

This Alert is one in an occasional series of articles providing tips about various topics which come up routinely with import and export transactions. These articles/tips are published with the intention to provide suggestions to aid international traders in their on-going efforts to get their declarations right the first time, and are based on situations we commonly see arising. Whether it is reasonable care on the import side or not self-blinding on the export side, compliance is a key for many different reasons, including protecting your bottom line.

Part 1 of this series addressed how to value goods correctly, and can be read here. This edition provides import classification tips.

Under U.S. law, imported goods are classified for duty assessment and statistical reporting using the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System. This compilation of 97 Chapters and approximately 5,000 product descriptions, known in the U.S. as the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), provides a single modern structure for product classification and is used by more than 200 countries as a basis for their customs tariff and collection of international trade statistics. The first six digits and their corresponding product descriptions are enacted by the countries World Trade Organization member countries. The remaining digits in any tariff number (which total 10 in the U.S.) and their corresponding duty rates are set individually by each country. The HTSUS in the U.S. has 99 chapters, with the two unique ones intended to cover product specific provisions, such as American goods returned, products assembled abroad, special rules imposed on given products (for example, temporary quotas), and so on.

Tariff classification of goods under the HTSUS is governed by the General Rules of Interpretation (GRIs) which are analyzed in order until one applies. In so doing, don’t forget to also check the additional U.S. rules of interpretation. (more…)