U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) has a notice in today’s Federal Register that we thought you might to be of interest. The notice, which is entitled, “Notice of Opportunity and Procedures to Request Assistance on Tariff Classification and Customs Valuation Treatment by Other Customs Administrations Affecting United States Exports” (copy available here), is aimed at companies that run into tariff classification and/or customs valuation disputes with foreign customs administrations.
In short, the notice reminds the public that the rules for tariff classification and customs valuation are based on international/harmonized standards, there are international forums where questions/disputes as to how these rules should be applied can be addressed (e.g., Harmonized System Committee and the Technical Committee on Customs Valuation), and the United States government actively participates in these forums. Accordingly, CBP encourages U.S. exporters who run into tariff classification and/or customs valuation issues in foreign countries (e.g., a country classifying a product differently than the U.S. exporter believes to be correct; a country requiring an impermissibly high customs value, etc.) to raise these issues with CBP. CBP will review the issue, and if it agrees with the U.S. exporter’s position, it will intercede with the foreign government on the company’s behalf.
This is a well-intentioned gesture by CBP. As any company which has experienced this sort of dispute knows, it could be quite helpful to have CBP on your side. The same argument advanced to a foreign customs administration may carry more weight if it came from CBP, than if it came from the importer/exporter alone. That said, it will be interesting to see if CBP will be able to respond to requests for assistance in a timely manner. The notice states that CBP will “endeavor to provide an initial response” within 60 days. Given the current backlog on requests for rulings on imports (CBP’s primary mission), that seems to be an ambitious target. Nevertheless, any company that runs into a customs-related dispute with a foreign customs administration should keep this notice in mind as another potential avenue to resolve it.
We hope this is helpful. If you have any questions, please let us know.