Section 301 – China Responds

Dear Friends,

As expected, China announced yesterday that it will implement retaliatory tariffs of either 10% or 5% on $60 billion worth of U.S. products imported into China beginning September 24, 2018.  China’s action is in response to the U.S. announcement of its intention to implement the Section 301 List 3 tariffs.

The latest round of Chinese retaliatory tariffs will apply to products of U.S. origin that fall on four lists that China published on August 3, 2018.  China organized these four lists according to proposed tariff rates of 25%, 20%, 10% and 5%.  Based on its latest announcement, while the products have not changed, the tariff rates have.  China will impose a 10% retaliatory tariff on U.S. products on the 25% and 20% lists, and it will impose a 5% tariff on products on the latter two lists.  Links to these four lists are provided for your reference below.  While the lists are in Chinese, the products can be identified by their tariff numbers. 

U.S. Products to be Subject to 10% Tariff:

U.S. Products to be Subject to 5% Tariff:

Unlike the United States, China does not offer a formal process for importers to request product exclusions from the tariffs, and affected companies must explore other options to mitigate the impact of the Chinese retaliatory tariffs on their businesses, such as advocacy, changes to their sourcing and manufacturing strategies, and other duty planning methods.

Our trade team in China routinely assists companies evaluate their options and implement mitigation strategies to address the tariffs.  If you have questions, or if you would like to explore possible options, you can either contact us or reach out to Jon Cowley (jon.cowley@bakermckenzie.com) or Frank Pan (frank.pan@bakermckenzie.com) directly.  

We hope this update is helpful.

Best regards,
Ted

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Section 301 – Escalation

Dear Friends,

Last night, the President issued a statement advising that the United States would impose a 10% duty on an additional $200 billion in imports from China, if China goes ahead with its plans to impose retaliatory duties on U.S. importsA copy of the President’s statement is attached for your reference.

In this latest round of escalating rhetoric, the President directed the U.S. Trade Representative to identify an additional $200 billion in imports from China (this is in addition to the first list of approx. $34 billion and the second list of approx. $16 billion) to hit with an additional 10% duty, if China goes ahead and imposes its proposed retaliatory duties on July 6th.  If China retaliates to this measure, then the United States will seek to impose duties on another $200 billion worth of imports from China.

The President is attempting to show China that he is serious about the forced technology transfer issue and about using duties to get China to change its behavior.  He is also demonstrating that he intends to use the U.S. trade deficit with China in his favor.  Since the U.S. imports far more from China (approx. $505 billion), than China imports from the United States (approx. $130 billion), President Trump appears to believe that he has the ability to raise the stakes beyond what China can afford (i.e., the U.S. is threatening to impose additional duties on $450 of the $505 billion worth of imports from China; China can only retaliate up to the $130 billion worth of imports from the United States).  Given the complexity of the relationship, it is not clear whether this is in fact the case (e.g., China has said it is ready for a trade war and could take action other than increasing customs duties).

What is clear, is that the imposition of additional duties is having a meaningful negative impact on many U.S. companies.  If duties are imposed on an additional $200 billion (or $400 billion) worth of imports from China, then more companies in more industries will be impacted (e.g., it is hard to imagine that the Administration will be able to avoid consumer products, as they have largely done to date, with the next list of $200 billion).  While there is still time for the two countries to reach a negotiated settlement and avoid a trade war (the first tranche of duties does not go into effect until July 6th), that does not appear likely, at this point.  As a result, all companies that import from China should be reviewing their options.  In particular, companies that import from wholly foreign-owned enterprises (“WFOEs”) should consider joining our coalition of companies pursuing a categorical exemption from the additional duties.  We continue to be in discussions with different parts of the Administration and with members of Congress on a possible exemption for such imports.

We trust this is helpful.  If you have any questions, or if you would like to discuss these issues further, please let us know.

Best regards,
Ted

Section 301 – Advance Copy of Federal Register Notice

Dear Friends,

Further to the below, the U.S. Trade Representative published on its website today an advance copy of the Federal Register notice related to Friday’s announcement.  A copy is attached here for your reference.

The notice confirms that an additional duty of 25% will be imposed on articles classified in the tariff subheadings included in Annex A of the notice as of July 6, 2018.  The notice also creates a new Chapter 99 subheading for entry purposes (entries of articles classified in the tariff subheadings identified in Annex A have to use the new Chapter 99 classification as a secondary classification, so the additional 25% duty can be assessed) and addresses foreign trade zone admissions.

The notice also sets the schedule for providing comments on the second list of articles proposed to be assessed an additional 25% duty.  This is the list of 284 tariff classifications the interagency Section 301 Committee identified as benefitting from China’s industrial policies, including Made in China 2025 (Annex C in the attached notice).  These 284 tariff classifications represent approximately $16 billion worth of imports from China.  The public comment schedule is as follows:

  • June 29, 2018 – deadline to file a notice requesting to provide testimony at the public hearing
  • July 23, 2018 – written comments due
  • July 24, 2018 – public hearing at the U.S. International Trade Commission
  • July 31, 2018 – rebuttal, post-hearing comments due

This notice does not provide the specifics for the product petition exclusion process referenced on Friday.  Instead, this notice says that the details of the product petition exclusion process will be included in a future Federal Register notice.

We are assisting numerous clients detail with these issues (e.g., re-aligning supply chains, filing comments, seeking Congressional support for exclusion requests, etc.) and would be happy to discuss this with you further, if helpful.

Best regards,

Ted

 

Section 301 – China’s Response

Dear Friends,

As expected, China has responded to today’s U.S. announcement with one of its own. 

 

China’s announcement mirrors the position adopted by the United States.  China will impose an additional 25% customs duty on approximately $34 billion worth of imports from the United States, as of July 6, 2018.  This list includes various agricultural products, certain food/juice/beverages, automobiles, auto parts, etc.  China is also considering imposing a 25% customs duty on a second list of U.S. products worth approximately $16 billion.  Both lists are attached here (although in Chinese, the tariff classifications are provided). 

This is the latest, but undoubtedly not the last, round in this dispute.  We expect that the U.S. administration will issue a response (likely in a tweet, at least initially) over the weekend (if not sooner).  A few months back, when China threatened to retaliate for any U.S. duties imposed under section 301, President Trump said he would up the ante by imposing a 25% customs duty on an additional $100 billion worth of imports from China.  We may now get to see if he is willing to make good on that threat.

Best regards,
Ted       

Section 301 Update III

Dear Friends,

The White House announced today that, not only is the section 301 investigation alive and well, but sanctions will be imposed shortly.  More specifically, the announcement states that the United States will: 

(1) implement “specific investment restrictions and enhanced export controls for Chinese persons and entities related to the acquisition of industrially significant technology” shortly after they are announced by June 30, 2018;

(2) continue to pursue litigation at the WTO for China’s alleged violation of TRIPS; and

(3) impose an additional 25% duty on a list of $50 billion worth of Chinese-origin imports; the list of products subject to the additional 25% duty “will be announced by June 15, 2018[.]”

A copy of the announcement is attached for your reference. 

If you import articles produced by a WFOE and are interested in joining our coalition of companies pursuing that exemption, please let us know.

Best regards,
Ted


Dear Friends,

Further to the below, while there were some mixed signals sent yesterday, the Administration clarified today that the imposition of the section 301 duties is being suspended.  It is being reported that China and the United States have made enough progress in negotiations to warrant suspending the imposition of tariffs (as well as China’s retaliatory tariffs) for now.

While this is a positive development, it is also subject to change.  As a result, for now, we are recommending that companies continue to pursue exclusions just in case.

If you have any questions, please let us know.

Best regards,
Ted


Dear Friends,

Further to the below, we wanted to provide a brief update on the Section 301 situation and request your assistance.

First, the update.  Roughly, 2,900 comments were submitted in response to the list of Chinese-origin articles the USTR proposed to subject to an additional 25% duty upon importation into the United States.  The comments were both opposed to, and in favor of, the imposition of additional duties (with the vast majority being opposed either broadly, or with regard to the inclusion of specific articles on the proposed list).  A 3-day hearing was also held this past week where approximately 125 individuals provided verbal comments either in opposition to, or in favor, of the additional duties.  Rebuttal comments are due this coming Tuesday, May 22nd.

Now the request — we assisted several clients prepare comments and testimony opposing the imposition of the additional duties.  We also assisted these clients in discussions with their respective Congressional delegations and were able to get commitments of support.   We advanced several different arguments during this process, but one, in particular, seemed to resonate especially well.  Based on that positive feedback, we wanted to follow-up with all of you to see if your companies are similarly-situated and, if so, if you would be willing to join our effort to gain a broad-based exemption.

In short, we requested that USTR categorically exempt from the proposed additional duties products manufactured in China by wholly foreign-owned enterprises (“WFOEs”).

As explained in greater detail in our previous updates (below), the USTR concluded that China used foreign ownership/joint venture requirements, compulsory technology transfers, the acquisition of U.S. companies and assets, etc. to obtain cutting edge U.S. technology and that those practices were “unreasonable or discriminatory and burden or restrict U.S. commerce”[.]  It was then determined that the “appropriate” remedy “to obtain the elimination” of those practices was to impose an additional 25% duty on the identified articles.  So, stated simply, the USTR’s goal is to identify articles on which the imposition of additional duties will force China to change its unfair policies.

WFOEs, which are, by definition, owned entirely by non-Chinese entities, are not subject to the ownership restrictions (i.e., a WFOE does not have a joint venture partner).  WFOEs in most industries are also not subject to compulsory technology transfer through government licensing, for example.  As a result, the imposition of additional duties on articles produced in China by WFOEs will have no impact on Chinese government policy (i.e., there is no “forced” technology transfer when the manufacturer involved is a WFOE, therefore, assessing duties on articles produced by a WFOE does not make sense).

Accordingly, we requested that the USTR categorically exempt from any Section 301 duties articles produced in China by a WFOE.  We also pointed out that such an exemption would be easily administrable from a customs perspective.  A new ‘special program indicator’ could be created that, when used, meant that the importer was certifying that the articles being imported were produced by a WFOE (similar to how claims are made now under our more recent free trade agreements).  Such a certification would be subject to audit/verification by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.  The manufacturer identification (or MID) codes could also be used to help ensure that only articles produced (not just sold) by the WFOE were entered under the exemption.

We believe that such a request has a meaningful chance of success for a couple of reasons.  The first is that exempting articles produced by WFOEs is consistent with the Section 301 determination (i.e., the goal is to get China to lift its restrictive ownership requirements so U.S./foreign companies can operate without local joint venture partners; WFOEs are already entirely foreign owned).  Second, this exemption request is a lot easier to justify than picking and choosing among the large number of compelling stories U.S. companies told in the context of their HTS-specific requests (i.e., assuming the USTR wants to provide some exemptions, our categorical request would be easier to grant than picking and choosing from among the numerous HTS-specific requests companies made).  Finally, it is also administrable.

As mentioned, our WFOE exemption has received positive feedback at a number of levels.  Accordingly, if you are opposed to the imposition of the Section 301 duties (either because you are on the list in this round, or you fear being on the list in the next potential round) and the articles you import are produced by a WFOE, please let us know.  Regardless of whether you filed comments already or not, we believe that you have the opportunity to engage with the Administration on this issue as part of our coalition.

We hope this is helpful.  If you have any questions, please 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

 

Exporting to China — Zika II

Dear Friends,

Further to our previous post, the USDA FAS recently issued an update stating that, last Friday, “China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) stated that it has decided to regionalize its Zika requirements for shipments of cargo from the United States based on a risk-assessment performed by AQSIQ, using data supplied by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). AQSIQ experts determined that due to the low risk of Zika transmission through shipments of cargo, vessels originating from the United States, other than the state of Florida, do not require disinsection certification.” The update goes on to state that any shipment originating from a state other than Florida could still be subject to deinsection if, during the course of routine inspection, local officials discover adult mosquitos, eggs, larva, etc.  A copy of the update can be found here.

Given the nature of the issue (a fast-moving health & safety issue), we expect that there may still be confusion at many local ports.  If you run into any issues, please let us know.

We hope this is helpful.

Best regards,

Ted