I wanted to share with you a couple of thoughts on the Section 232/Section 301 process that I thought might be helpful.
The first is a reminder. The temporary exclusions from the Section 232 duties on steel (an additional 25%) and aluminum (an additional 10%) granted to products of Canada, Mexico, Australia, Argentina, Brazil and the EU expire at midnight on Monday, April 30th (i.e., tomorrow). While there has been some reports that the Administration intends to extend the temporary exclusions for some countries (i.e., those that have expressed a willingness to negotiate a voluntary export restraint-type agreement), that is not likely to extend to all countries. Based on what the EU has said publicly about its willingness to accept a VER, it seems likely that the additional duties will go into effect on Tuesday.
The second is also a reminder. As companies grapple with the Section 232/Section 301 duties, many are reviewing their imports and determining whether articles are correctly classified or not (e.g., if an article is on the list of products proposed to be subject to the Section 301 duties, can the article be re-classified in a different HTS provision not on the list?). Many companies are also reviewing the publicly-available data of their competitors. . . .
As many of you know, U.S. Customs and Border Protection makes available to the public manifest data for import and export shipments. The manifest data includes information such as the name and address of the foreign shipper & U.S. consignee/notify party, the ports of lading and unlading, the carrier, a description of the goods, weight, etc. This data is obtained by private companies that repackage it (and often add their best guess at classification, entered value, etc.) and then sell it to the public for a fee.
You may also know that CBP allows companies to request confidential treatment for their manifest data. Under the regulations, if a company requests confidential treatment, CBP will not disclose the names and addresses of the importer/consignee, foreign shipper or notify party and any other identifying marks.
The process to obtain confidential treatment is pretty straight-forward (it involves submitting a letter to CBP HQ) and we recommend that all clients pursue confidential treatment every 2 years.
We hope that this is helpful. If you have any questions, or if you would like any assistance with Section 232/Section 301 issues, including requesting confidential treatment for your manifest data, please let us know.