On January 31, 2020, President Trump issued Executive Order 13904 (“EO”) entitled “Ensuring Safe & Lawful E-Commerce for U.S. Consumers, Businesses, Government Supply Chains, and Intellectual Property Rights.” It begins by stating that e-commerce is “being exploited by traffickers to introduce contraband into the United States, and by foreign exporters and United States importers to avoid applicable customs duties, taxes and fees.” The types of malfeasance cited are counterfeit goods, narcotics (specifically synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl), and other contraband, plus, of course, protection of the revenue. The focus of the EO is on express consignment operators, carriers, hub facilities, international posts, customs brokers and e-commerce platform operations (the “Regulated Parties”). Anyone who participates in the “introduction or attempted introduction” of parcels containing contraband can be held accountable with accountability taking the form of both civil and criminal consequences, as appropriate. The EO goes on to state that CBP’s suspension and debarment procedure will form the framework through which these actions will be carried out. Suspension and debarment apply in the context of doing business with the government, such as government contracts, subcontracts, grants, loans and other assistance programs.
While the Federal Register notice containing all the relevant details has yet to be published, today, the U.S. Trade Representative published an announcement confirming that certain unidentified products were removed from List 4 for health, safety, national security and similar reasons, and those remaining would be rolled out on two different lists with two different effective dates. List 4A will be effective September 1, 2019 and can be found here. List 4B can be found here, and will be effective on December 15, 2019. USTR notes the products on List 4B include “cell phones, laptop computers, video game consoles, certain toys, computer monitors, and certain items of footwear and clothing.” Given the contents of List 4B, one is left to wonder whether USTR was trying to avoid making Christmas too grim for American consumers! (more…)
As has been repeatedly mentioned in the general press, President Trump tweeted on August 1st that the U.S. “will start, on September 1st, putting a small additional Tariff of 10% on the remaining 300 Billion Dollars of goods and products coming from China into our Country.” There are lots of questions about what that short message actually means, and right now, no answers. So far, there is no official notice from the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) for publication in the Federal Register. There is nothing new posted on the USTR website. We know the President said he picked September 1st because there are goods on the water, but we do not know whether September 1st is the date by which the goods must arrive in the U.S., or must be exported from China. Will the products on List 4 change from those originally published? Whatever goods are on the final version of List 4, will at least some of the products be listed to the 10-digit level? Right now, all products are listed to the eight-digit level, but the descriptions assigned to those classifications, in some cases, do not include all the products encompassed by the very different products classified under that eight-digit number. This is typically the case due to either the type of good or its constituent material. (more…)
In the June 20, 2019 pre-publication edition of the Federal Register, the U.S. Trade Representative announced the long awaited process for seeking exclusions for goods on List 3, the one which recently went from 10% to 25%. While the exclusion process itself generally mirrors the process applied to those goods on Lists 1 and 2, there are a few differences, but let’s start at the beginning.
Any exclusion request for List 3 goods must be filed between June 30 and September 30, 2019. The request must be filed through the portal: http://exclusions.ustr.gov (active beginning June 30, 2019). One new wrinkle is parties must register in the portal before filing. (more…)
In March, there was a good deal of consternation in the general press trying to understand news that President Trump had overruled the actions of the Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) to impose additional sanctions on North Korea. Beside the oddity of a President overruling actions by a part of the Executive branch after they had been taken, it remains a mystery what the President was seeking to overrule. Not being deterred, OFAC marched on, and in so doing, it provided multiple examples again how compliance programs need to not be just written, but also followed and enforced, and cost at least one American company $1,869,144 plus significant compliance upgrade costs. (more…)
At the end of the day on September 17, 2018, the U.S. Trade Representative issued notice that List 3 of the China tariffs has been finalized and takes effect with a 10% tariff on September 24, 2018. If “sufficient” progress is not made with the Chinese as defined by the Trump Administration, that tariff rate will rise to 25% on January 1, 2019. List 3 is the list containing products worth $200 billion.
The USTR announcement can be found here. The original list of products was 6,031. The final list was reduced to 5,745 and can be found here.
To no one’s surprise, the Chinese immediately announced their own retaliatory action and those details can be found here. (more…)
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…)
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…)
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:
Was the importer purchasing his goods or receiving them on consignment?
Are the parties related?
From which suppliers is the importer purchasing?
From which suppliers are the goods received on consignment?
If on consignment, how are the goods being valued at time of entry?
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…)
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…)