China to Impose Trade Measures on USA as a Result of Section 301 Investigation

Dear Friends,

As expected, China has announced that it intends to impose 25% additional duties on $50 billion worth of U.S. imports in response to the threat of the U.S. imposing 25% duties on Chinese imports as a result of the section 301 investigation. 

The list includes 106 categories of U.S. products, from agricultural products (e.g., soybeans, wheat, corn, beef, etc.) to chemicals to aircraft and autos.  These duties are in addition to the additional duties China threatened to impose on U.S. products last week in response to the additional duties the U.S. has imposed on steel and aluminum under section 232.

While the trade war is escalating (and all companies should be planning accordingly), the ‘goods news’ is that this latest of round of duties do not go into effect immediately.  Instead, there will be a process in the United States that will take time, and it appears that China may not impose its duties until after the U.S. duties go into effect.  This gives the two governments a chance to reach a negotiated settlement of the underlying concerns.  That said, until such a settlement is reached (which is not likely in the short term), companies should be taking appropriate action to prepare.

We hope this is helpful.  If you have any questions about how these developments impact your business (here or in China), please let us know.

Best regards,

Ted

 

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US to Impose Trade Measures on China as a Result of Section 301 Investigation — List of Products Impacted

Dear Friends,

Further to the below, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative published the list of products proposed to be hit with an additional 25% duty upon importation from China, as a result of the determination that certain acts, policies and practices by China related to foreign ownership/joint venture requirements, forced technology transfers, the acquisition of U.S. companies and assets to obtain cutting edge technology, etc. are “unreasonable or discriminatory and burden or restrict U.S. commerce” and President Trump’s March 22 memo (discussed below).  A copy of USTR’s notice is attached.

According to the notice, the list was compiled by identifying the products that benefitted from China’s unfair/discriminatory policies, removing the products whose inclusion would cause disruptions to the U.S. economy and ranking the remainder by likely impact to U.S. consumers (with the list being drawn from those products with the lowest consumer impact).  The products to be assessed the additional 25% duty are identified by 8-digit tariff classification.  The list includes a variety of products and industries, including chemicals (many of which appear to be active pharmaceutical ingredients), drugs, iron, steel, aluminum, turbines, engines/motors, aerospace materials, pumps, compressors, various types of production machinery, scales, construction equipment, paper making machinery, various types of machine tools, hand tools, certain computer equipment & accessories, magnets, batteries, etc.  Particularly hard hit are articles classified in Chapters 84, 85 and 90.  At this point, the list of products is not final.  The USTR is accepting comments on the proposed list of products, the appropriate duty rate, etc. until May 11, 2018 (with rebuttal comments being due by May 22, 2018).  The USTR will also hold a public hearing on May 15, 2018.   

All companies that import from China should review the list of products proposed to be hit with the additional duties.  If you are importing one or more articles included on this list, then you should consider submitting comments to the USTR and/or appearing at the hearing, as well as pursuing other alternatives.  We would be happy to discuss these options with you further, if helpful.

Also, as it just recently did with regard to the steel and aluminum section 232 duties, we expect that China will respond to this development by threatening to impose additional duties on U.S. products imported into China.

We hope that this is helpful.  If you have any questions, please let us know.

Best regards,
Ted

The Art of the Deal – Update on Section 232 Duties on Steel & Aluminum

Dear Friends,

Late last week, the President issued two proclamations amending his earlier proclamations imposing additional duties on imports of steel and aluminum.  Copies of these proclamations may be found here and here.

The proclamations made a number of important changes to the section 232 duties.  Most notably, the President extended the temporary exemption previously afforded to Canada and Mexico, to Australia, Argentina, South Korea, Brazil and the EU.  In addition, the temporary exemption will now only run through April 30, 2018.  As of May 1, 2018, covered steel and aluminum articles from all countries will be subject to the additional 25% (steel) and 10% (aluminum) duties unless a further agreement is reached.

The President also indicated that, if any long-term agreements are ultimately reached with any countries, such that the exemption is continued beyond April 30, 2018, he will consider whether to adjust the additional duty rates (the 25% and 10%) to ensure that the desired goal is achieved (limit imports sufficiently to allow for domestic production utilization of 80%).      

The proclamations also include provisions that discuss the possible implementation of a quota on imports from exempted countries, place restrictions on articles admitted into Foreign Trade Zones and provide further detail on the product exclusion petition process (e.g., additional criteria for approval and retroactive treatment for approved petitions).

Regardless of what you think of the policy, the threat of significantly increased duties has (thus far) had the desired result, as many countries have sought to negotiate with the United States.  It will be interesting to see what unfolds over the next few weeks (e.g., will the imposition of section 232 duties to Canada and Mexico be tied to concluding the NAFTA renegotiations? will countries like Japan seek its own long-term exemption? if long-term exemptions are granted, will the duty rates be increased to even higher rates? what sort of voluntary-restraint type of agreement/quota will be required in order to obtain a long-term exemption?).  All companies that utilize steel or aluminum articles (whether imported or domestically-produced) should be taking steps now to review the economic impact the section 232 duties will have on their business.  Consideration should be given to the impact on long-term supply agreements (whether upstream or downstream – who bears the cost of increased duties?), the impact on market competition (e.g., are you making a product here with imported steel or aluminum, but competing against finished products produced abroad and imported into the United States without being subject to the section 232 duties?), etc.

We are assisting numerous companies navigate these issues (as well as the product exclusion process) and would be happy to discuss your situation with you further.  If you would like to do so, just let us know. 

Best regards, 

Ted

 

US to Impose Trade Measures on China as a Result of Section 301 Investigation

Dear Friends,

The President signed an executive memorandum earlier today that all companies that (i) import anything from China, (ii) do business in China, or (iii) export anything to China, should be aware of.  A copy of the memorandum is attached.

The memorandum was issued in response to an investigation the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) conducted into whether “China’s laws, policies, practices, or actions that may be unreasonable or discriminatory and that may be harming American intellectual property rights, innovation, or technology development” under section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, as amended.  Based on the USTR’s investigation, the President has concluded that:

“First, China uses foreign ownership restrictions, including joint venture requirements, equity limitations, and other investment restrictions, to require or pressure technology transfer from U.S. companies to Chinese entities.  China also uses administrative review and licensing procedures to require or pressure technology transfer, which, inter alia, undermines the value of U.S. investments and technology and weakens the global competitiveness of U.S. firms.

Second, China imposes substantial restrictions on, and intervenes in, U.S. firms’ investments and activities, including through restrictions on technology licensing terms.  These restrictions deprive U.S. technology owners of the ability to bargain and set market-based terms for technology transfer.  As a result, U.S. companies seeking to license technologies must do so on terms that unfairly favor Chinese recipients.

Third, China directs and facilitates the systematic investment in, and acquisition of, U.S. companies and assets by Chinese companies to obtain cutting-edge technologies and intellectual property and to generate large-scale technology transfer in industries deemed important by Chinese government industrial plans.

Fourth, China conducts and supports unauthorized intrusions into, and theft from, the computer networks of U.S. companies.  These actions provide the Chinese government with unauthorized access to intellectual property, trade secrets, or confidential business information, including technical data, negotiating positions, and sensitive and proprietary internal business communications, and they also support China’s strategic development goals, including its science and technology advancement, military modernization, and economic development.”  

Based on this, the President has directed the USTR to:

(1)    Publish a list of products imported from China to subject to increased duties by Friday, April 6, 2018;

(2)    Pursue WTO challenges to China’s “discriminatory licensing practices”; and

(3)    Report back to the President on progress on (1) and (2) within 60 days.

The President also directed the Secretary of the Treasury to propose appropriate actions to “address concerns about investment in the United States directed or facilitated by China in industries or technologies deemed important to the United States” and to report back within 60 days.

It is being widely-reported that the list of products to be targeted with increased duties represents approximately $60 billion in Chinese imports and impacts a range of industries, including high tech products, consumer electronics, apparel, footwear, etc.  The draft list is reported to include approximately 1,300 tariff lines.  Once published, the public will have 15 days to provide comments on the USTR’s proposal.  Any duties ultimately imposed will be in addition to any other duties currently payable (e.g., normal duties, AD/CVD, etc.).

On the investment front, there are underway efforts in Congress to update/strengthen the Committee on Foreign Investment (CFIUS) process, but this signals a desire by the President to not wait and, possibly, go further than what Congress is currently contemplating.

Finally, it is expected that China will impose retaliatory measures on articles imported from the United States in response to today’s announcement.  It is expected that a range of U.S. exports will be impacted, but most notably, agricultural exports. 

We hope that this update is helpful.  We will continue to monitor and provide updates on developments as they arise.  In the meantime, if you would like to discuss the issues involved here further, just let us know.

Best regards,

Ted

 

Challenge to How the Substantial Test is Applied to Pharmaceutical Products

Dear Friends,

We wanted to bring to your attention a recent development regarding an issue that has been a thorn in the sides of pharmaceutical companies for many years.  The development involves how the substantial transformation test is applied to pharmaceuticals for purposes of determining country of origin.

As you know, will generally be found to have occurred if the manufacturing or processing operation results in a change in (1) commercial designation or identity, (2) fundamental character, or (3) commercial use.  In the pharmaceutical context, U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) long-standing position has been that, for single API products, formulation (i.e., mixing a bulk active with excipients and putting it up in dosage form) is generally not enough to work a substantial transformation.  As a result, if an active is produced in one country and shipped to another country for formulation, the formulating operations performed in the second country will not be sufficient to change the origin of the active ingredient.  In short, the origin of the API controls (of course, CBP in its wisdom gets a different result under the NAFTA Marking Rules, which is maddening). 

A pharmaceutical company is now challenging CBP’s long-standing position at the Court of International Trade (CIT).  The case stems from an adverse final determination issued in the government procurement context.  CBP determined that the pharmaceutical at issue is not substantially transformed in the United States because the API, sourced from India, retains its chemical and physical properties upon processing in the United States.  The determination is adverse because, as a result of not being considered to be substantially transformed in the United States, the company’s product is not eligible for procurement by the U.S. government (India is not a TAA country).   In response to this determination, the company filed suit at the CIT.  The company argues that the API is substantially transformed into a new and different product with a different use as a result of the processes performed in the United States.  A copy of the compliant is attached for your reference. 

The case is significant because it means that CBP’s long-standing position of what constitutes a substantially transformation will be reviewed by an independent, third party — the CIT.  A positive outcome for the company could impact how country of origin is determined for pharmaceutical products across the board.

If this issue has caused you heartburn (or if your company sources API from non-TAA countries like India, China, etc. but formulates the finished products in TAA countries, like the U.S., Canada, Ireland, etc.), then you may want to consider weighing in at the CIT.  We would be happy to discuss how best to do that with you further.  If such a discussion would be helpful, just let us know. 

Best regards,

Ted

Section 232 Duties on Steel & Aluminum — Process for Product Exclusions

Dear Friends, 

Further to the below, the Department of Commerce will publish procedures for (i) requesting product-based exclusions from the section 232 duties on steel and aluminum, and (ii) objecting to such requests, in tomorrow’s Federal Register (an advance copy of the Federal Register notice is attached here).  Any company potentially interested in seeking an exclusion for one or more articles covered by the section 232 duties should review the notice.  In particular, there are a number of key items worth noting:

(1) exclusion petitions may be submitted only by “individuals or organizations using [steel or aluminum] articles . . . in business activities . . . in the United States”;

(2) objections to exclusion petitions may be submitted by “any individual or organization in the United States”; 

(3) any approved exclusion petitions will be limited to a specific article (unless Commerce specifies a broader exclusion is granted) and to the petitioner (i.e., you cannot generally get the benefit of someone else’s exclusion petition); you can, however, file “follow-on” petitions;

(4) exclusions petitions must be filed electronically, using a specific form created for this purpose; objections must be filed within 30 days of an exclusion petition being filed, also using a specific form; petitions can cover only a single 10-digit Harmonized Tariff Schedule classification; and the review process will generally take 90 days from date of filing; and

(5) approved exclusions will be effective 5 business days after the approval is published; and will “generally” be good for 1 year.

Product exclusion petitions will only be approved “if an article is not produced in the United States in a sufficient and reasonably available amount, is not produced in the United States in a satisfactory quality, or for a specific national security consideration.”  We expect that Commerce will approve petitions only sparingly, and primarily for valid national security-related considerations. 

Product based exclusions can be filed beginning tomorrow, March 19, 2018.  If you are considering doing so, we recommend filing as soon as possible.  That said, it is important that your petition be as well prepared as possible (e.g., consider scope issues, the import data, whether there are any national security implications/allies in the federal government, any likely objections, etc.) to give it the best chance of success.  We are assisting many clients prepare petitions and would be happy to discuss this with you further.  If you are interested in doing so, please let us know.

Best regards,
Ted

Customs Fraud Leads to a €2.7 Billion Bill for the UK

Dear Friends,

Further to the below, this past Thursday, the European Commission issued a letter of formal notice demanding that the UK government pay €2.7 billion (~$3.35 billion) in customs duties that should have been collected on imports of Chinese footwear and textiles, but wasn’t due to fraud.  The notice states that:

“Despite having been informed of the risks of fraud relating to the importation of textiles and footwear originating in the People’s Republic of China since 2007, and despite having been asked to take appropriate risk control measures, the United Kingdom failed to take action to prevent the fraud.”

The notice alleges that the UK’s failure to address the customs fraud cost the EU €2.7 billion in uncollected customs duties, as well as an unspecified amount in VAT.  The European Commission is now taking formal measures (an infringement procedure) to collect those amounts from the UK government.

As indicated below, the two most likely implications of this development are (i) a more complicated Brexit negotiation, and (ii) increased scrutiny by all EU member customs administrations of footwear and textile/apparel imports (particularly with regard to valuation).

We hope you find this helpful.  If you have any questions about these issues, or what you can do to prepare for greater scrutiny of your imports into the UK/EU, please let us know.

Best regards,
Ted