International Trade

Solar Flare-up with China

Solar power plant panels with sun rays and blue skyBy Susan Kohn Ross

Two actions took place at the end of last week which heighten concerns that a trade war with China could be ever more likely. First, there was the preliminary decision in the solar panels 201 case. Then, we had the additional sanctions imposed by the President on North Korea.

The 201 solar panel case began when Suniva Inc. and SolarWorld Americas Inc. filed their cases before the International Trade Commission (“ITC”) in April and May 2017. These actions are, of course, in addition to the antidumping and countervailing duties currently being imposed on these products from China. (more…)

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…)

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…)

Hanjin Shipping Sinks in Korea

By Susan Kohn Ross

With the bankruptcy filing of Hanjin Shipping having just occurred on the 31st, many of their shipping customers are only now beginning to feel the disruption to their supply chains and are trying to sort out how to get their goods moving. It would be reasonable to expect similar bankruptcy filings in some major countries such as the U.S. and at least one in Europe, but until that happens, here are some tips for getting your goods moving. (more…)

ACE Allows for Stricter Customs Enforcement

By Susan Kohn Ross

First published by Journal of Commerce, August 2016

In the face of its recent reorganization and enhanced computer system, it was really only a matter of time before the trade community started to see Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) better organize its enforcement efforts, and now the first tangible step has been publicly disclosed.

When the concept for the Centers for Excellence and Expertise was rolled out, it was logical to expect that CBP would combine the enhanced computer capabilities of the Automated Commercial Environment with information developed from the industry focused CEEs. That meant, we would eventually see CBP relying on computer analytics and internal expertise to help the agency pinpoint where to focus its enforcement efforts. Over the years, we had seen those with the most experience retire. CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement seemed to lose their ability to make serious fraud cases. Yes, criminal cases for trade fraud, involving for example for antidumping and export license violations, continued to be brought, but it has been a long time since we have heard about a really significant civil penalty. Sure, some smaller fish got caught, and many of them did some really dumb things. Others who got caught just plain cheated. Now, however, CBP has launched a round of “informed compliance” letters, which are really warning letters to the trade community. (more…)

TFTEA – Export Fee Refunds, Show Me The Money?

By Susan Kohn Ross

In an earlier alert, we discussed the various export incentives put into place with the passage of the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act (“TFTEA”). One long-standing benefit available to exporters is duty drawback, which enhances a company’s ability to compete in the global market.  Drawback lowers the cost of U.S. exports by allowing for refunds of duties, taxes and fees paid on imported merchandise which is subsequently exported in its same form, as part of a U.S. manufactured product or similar domestic merchandise which is substituted for the imported merchandise.  More details will become evident as the regulations are developed within two (2) years following enactment.  Here we discuss the key provisions in the TFTEA which impact drawback. (more…)