Written by Susan Kohn Ross For many months, the customs brokerage community has been expecting to see updates to the existing regulations. They finally came out in the Federal Register on June 5, 2020, see here. Comments are due on or before August 4, 2020. While much of what is in the proposed revisions is not controversial and fits nicely into CBP’s stated purpose to … Continue reading Customs Broker Regulations Update – What Was CBP Thinking?
Since the United States Supreme Court decided Jam v. Int’l Fin. Corp., 139 S. Ct. 759 (2019), international organizations (as designated under the International Organizations Immunities Act of 1945 (“IOIA”)) have increasingly faced litigation that can no longer be dismissed on absolute immunity grounds. These organizations now have to navigate preliminary jurisdictional defenses that they would not have normally considered or asserted before Jam. One such defense is “improper venue” pursuant to the venue provision of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976 (“FSIA”), which can result in case dismissal or transfer to a forum that an international organization defendant finds more familiar or strategically advantageous. Continue reading “The FSIA Provides Exclusive Venue Options to Sue an International Organization – Or Does It?”
There are a bunch of other things going on when it comes to international trade, but the most concerning topic right now is the coronavirus or COVID-19. From a purely business continuity perspective, we are receiving lots of inquiries around the following question: “Can we get out of our contracts by invoking the force majeure clauses?” Such a clause allows parties to cancel contracts when events occur which are both beyond their control but also totally unexpected. A typical illustration would be an “Act of God.” First, make sure your contract includes a force majeure clause, because if not, that could present a significant uphill and costly battle. Given the widespread losses which are likely to result, it is reasonable to anticipate companies of any size will, so to speak, “stick to their guns” in trying to “spread the pain.”
Assuming such a clause is present in your contract, what does it say? An example of one recently presented includes among its examples: “… strikes, riots, floods, storms, earthquakes, fires, power failures, natural disasters, pandemics, insurrection, acts of God, or for any cause beyond the control of” the named party. Is that language sufficient to permit cancellation under the current circumstances of the COVID-19 outbreak? Probably so, since it mentions pandemics and the World Health Organization has labeled the outbreak as such, but would this language have been broad enough to cover the situation a month ago? Maybe not. Continue reading “COVID-19 and the Trade Community”
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.
Clearly, there is more going on these days in Washington, D.C. than just the impeachment hearings, and activities this week made that point clear. In the span of only a few days, we saw progress on two key issues – the China 301 tariffs and the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
First, we saw an indefinite suspension of the List 4B 15% China tariff which was to take effect on December 15, 2019. The President tweeted about it, saying “The 25% Tariffs will remain as is with 7 1/2% put on much of the remainder…” (see here for the full text) and USTR issued a press release (see here). Regretfully, neither is very clear, beyond stating the tariff on goods on List 4B is suspended indefinitely. CBP confirmed the suspension later in the day at CSMS 40984510. There was also a Fact Sheet issued by USTR (see here), but it, too, failed to clear up the tariff impact. Continue reading “Yikes to the Year End!”
As has been widely reported, on Friday, first President Trump announced and then USTR Lighthizer confirmed the 301 tariffs on goods out of China will increase. Specifically, the tariffs on the goods on Lists 1, 2 and 3 will rise from 25% to 30% starting October 1, 2019, while the tariffs on the List 4 products will start at 15% on September 1, 2019 or December 15, 2019, rather than the original 10%, depending on whether your product is on List 4A or List 4B. USTR also acknowledged there will be a notice and comment period provided in the Federal Register notice to follow. While no doubt many American traders hope the possibility exists to remove products from any of the lists, that seems highly unlikely. While this upheaval continues, companies should also keep in mind the ability to seek exclusions for goods on List 3 expires on September 30, 2019. The exclusion process for goods on List 4 has still not been published. Continue reading “Tariff Turmoil Gets Hotter!”
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. Continue reading “The Trade War Wages On”
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. Continue reading “China 301 List 3 Exclusion Process Announced”
Putting all the hyperbole and posturing to one side, the recent agreement between Mexico and the U.S. which averted the tariffs can be found in the U.S. – Mexico Joint Statement released June 7, 2019. It consists of a few broad policy statements:
- Mexico will deploy its National Guard throughout Mexico, giving priority to its southern border – meaning the border with Guatemala;
- Mexico will take “decisive” action to dismantle human smuggling and trafficking organizations and their illicit financial and transportation networks;
- The U.S. and Mexico will strengthen bilateral cooperation, including information sharing and coordinated actions to better “protect” and “secure” their common border;
- The U.S. will immediately expand the existing Migrant Protection Protocols so that those crossing into the U.S. to seek asylum will be “rapidly” returned to Mexico where they “may” await adjudication of their asylum claims;
- Mexico agrees to “authorize” the entrance of those individuals for humanitarian reasons, in compliance with its international obligations, while they await adjudication of their claims;
- Mexico will offer jobs, healthcare and education to those individuals according to its principles; and
- The U.S. commits to “work to accelerate” the adjudication of asylum claims and “conclude removal proceedings as expeditiously as possible.”
Agriculture Secretary Perdue recently stated the trade damages to be addressed in a new round of farm aid is $15 to $20 billion! The general press is replete with stories about how, as these tariffs continue, companies are making sourcing changes that will be hard to reverse. So, what is the latest news?
First, there is trade with China. It seems clear that unless there is a breakthrough at the G-20 meeting in Tokyo, or shortly thereafter, the anecdotal headaches we hear about will get far more costly. The American Chamber of Commerce in China and the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai conducted a survey before List 3 was announced. Even at that point, American companies operating in China acknowledged higher production costs, decreased demand for products, reduced staffing, reduced profits, increased inspections at importation, increased bureaucratic oversight and regulatory scrutiny, slower approval of licenses and permits, higher product rejections, and increasing plans to relocate (but not back to the U.S.). Continue reading “Trade Trouble – East, West and South, but North is Settled for Now!”