Tariffs

New Tariffs: Trade War Washing Ashore?

solar panels  under blue sky on sunset

By Susan Kohn Ross

Yesterday, January 22, 2018, U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer announced the imposition of safeguard tariffs on solar cells and modules. Much has been said in the general press about this case, but only now is the key point starting to register, and is something international traders immediately thought about – is President Trump starting a new trade war with China?

By way of a quick summary, after seeking relief through the antidumping and countervailing duty laws and not getting the desired market relief, Suniva, later joined by SolarWorld, invoked Section 201 of the Trade Act of 1974. The appropriate petition was brought, the International Trade Commission (ITC) conducted the required proceedings, found detrimental harm, and made recommendations to the President. While disagreement among the Commissioners was acknowledged, most favored an increase in duties, and President Trump agreed. Safeguard tariffs have been imposed for four years – the maximum length of time permitted – on a per year basis – 30%, 25%, 20% and 15%. The USTR announcement also states the first 2.5 gigawatts of imported cells are excluded from the safeguard tariff. A critical point here is these safeguards are being imposed on both the cells and the modules, regardless of where made, as would be expected from a global safeguard, but the solar cells are overwhelmingly made in China. (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…)