The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) is required by law to report annually to Congress on compliance by the People’s Republic of China (China) and the Russian Federation (Russia) with commitments made in connection with their accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO), including both multilateral commitments and any bilateral commitments made to the United States. In releasing the reports on February 5, 2019, the USTR stated, “China and Russia present unique and serious challenges for members of the WTO and the multilateral trading system, largely because of their failure to embrace the pursuit of open, market-oriented policies.” China became a member of the WTO in 2001 – see 2018 China WTO Compliance Report; Russia joined the WTO in 2012 – see 2018 Russia WTO Compliance Report.

China Report – In Part 1 of the report that provides an assessment of China’s WTO membership, the USTR states that China’s compliance with WTO rules is “poor” and highlights the country’s “continued embrace of a state-led, mercantilist approach to the economy and trade, despite WTO members’ expectations – and China’s own representations – that China would transform its economy and pursue the open, market-oriented policies endorsed by the WTO.” The report notes China’s failure to adhere to multiple bilateral and multilateral commitments, including commitments to refrain from forcible technology transfers; open its electronic payment services market; and review applications of agricultural biotechnology products in a timely and science-based manner. The report also notes China’s continuing use of export and import substitution subsidies in sectors as diverse as automobiles, textiles, advanced materials, medical products and agriculture, despite explicit prohibitions in the WTO Agreement. It highlights that China repeatedly deploys illegal export restraints, such as export quotas, export licensing, minimum export prices, export duties and other restrictions, to “provide substantial cost advantages to a wide range of downstream producers in China at the expense of foreign producers, while creating pressure on foreign producers to move their operations, technologies and jobs to China.” In the report, the USTR finds that “[a]ny review of China’s trade regime also shows that China’s regulatory system is so opaque that it is often difficult for U.S. companies – or even the U.S. government – to fully understand China’s legal requirements in a particular area of the economy. This problem is exacerbated by China’s extremely poor record of adhering to its transparency obligations as a WTO member.” Part 2 of the report provides a detailed analysis of China’s trade regime from a WTO perspective, including identifying and explaining China’s policies and practices that disadvantage or harm U.S. companies.

Russia Report – This report states that “the United States and others welcomed Russia into the WTO’s rules-based system with the hope of expanding the benefits of open and freely competitive markets. The reality has been disappointing.” It notes that U.S. trade with Russia has fluctuated since Russia’s WTO admission in 2012, and criticizes the continued promulgation of Russia’s protectionist measures and disregard of general WTO principles. While the report indicates that Russia has implemented its scheduled tariff reductions and lifted its transit ban on poultry products, importing into the country remains “a difficult task.” Non-tariff trade barriers remain an issue of concern, and Russia continues to have “a less than transparent customs legal regime” and other “arbitrary behind-the-border measures and other discriminatory practices to exclude U.S. exports.” While Russia strengthened its intellectual property rights (IPR) regime as part of its WTO accession, the report indicates that “reliable and effective implementation of those rules has stalled.” Overall, the USTR concludes that “[d]espite Russia’s continued reliance on inward-looking, protectionist economic policies, the United States will continue to press Russia to comply with its WTO commitments and pursue market-based principles. But, at the end of the day, Russia must decide its future and take responsibility for its actions and the impact of those actions on its citizens.”

With the 35-day partial federal government shutdown ending on January 26, 2019, the U.S. government’s trade-oriented agencies have reopened and are beginning to work through massive backlogs of work as personnel resume full-time operations. What follows is a listing of the current operational status of many of these agencies:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

While CBP staffed ports “as normal” during the shutdown to ensure that the “flow of trade {is} as close to normal as possible,” other functions were curtailed. Due to the lapse in federal funding, however, the CBP website and certain databases were not actively managed. While no formal announcement has been made by CBP, these resources are once again fully operational, including the Customs Rulings Online Search System (CROSS) and the AD/CVD search database.

U.S. Department of Commerce – Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS)

No official statement has been issued by BIS officials, but the Department of Commerce is once again fully operational. While export enforcement continued during the shutdown, other functions of BIS were severely curtailed, including the filing of export license applications. SNAP-R (BIS’s electronic filing system) is back up and accepting licensing applications; however, it is expected that the review-and-approval process for applications will be delayed due to the expected high volume of filings BIS expects to receive.

U.S. Department of Commerce – International Trade Administration (ITA)

ITA is once again fully operational and has issued a memorandum stating that “any delay and confusion caused by the closure of the Federal Government will best be minimized by uniformly tolling all Enforcement and Compliance deadlines for the effective duration of the recent closure (i.e., 40 days), with the exception of requests for administrative reviews of suspension agreements and antidumping duty (AD) and countervailing duty (CVD) orders.” ITA has indicated that this determination applies to every proceeding, with the exception of court-ordered redeterminations. For AD and CVD orders and suspension agreements with December and January anniversary months, all requests for administrative reviews are now due by February 28, 2019.

U.S. Department of State – Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC)

DDTC has posted a notice on its website stating that it “has returned to full operational status with all electronic application systems placed in normal operational mode and the 3pm daily pick-up and drop-off service restored.” In resuming full operations, the agency notes that “Priority will be placed on issuance of licenses in the system at the time of implementation of lapse of funding operations on December 22, 2018. New licenses will be accepted; however, industry is advised of the likelihood of longer than normal processing times due to the high volume of licenses DDTC expects to receive.”

U.S. Department of the Treasury – Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)

As previously reported, Treasury continued to have critical staff reporting to work to maintain core operations, even though OFAC’s operations were significantly curtailed. OFAC is again fully functional, and its sanctions web pages and licensing portal are operating.

U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC)

The ITC has publicly stated that all investigations that were active and ongoing when the shutdown began will be tolled by 35 days; a formal notice soon to be published in the Federal Register will provide more detailed information. The ITC website notes that “specific schedules for each investigative proceeding, including those pending before an Administrative Law Judge, will be revised and new schedules posted. We hope in a week or more for revised schedules to be finalized.” The ITC website is once again fully operational, and EDIS (the ITC’s electronic filing system) was live and accepting filings as of January 30. The HTS Search Tool and Dataweb are once again fully operating.

Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR)

USTR has announced that it has returned to “full operating status.” Bilateral trade negotiations continued during the shutdown, particularly those between the United States and China, which face a March 1 deadline before U.S. retaliatory tariffs increase on certain imports of certain Chinese products on March 2 from 10 percent to 25 percent; however, no notice has been provided regarding how the lengthy shutdown will affect the processing of Section 301 product exclusion requests.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) unsealed two separate indictments on Monday, January 28, 2019, charging Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei with 23 counts of criminal activity. In the Eastern District of New York (EDNY), a 13-count indictment was released charging four defendants affiliated with Huawei. In the indictment, Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd., Huawei Device USA Inc., Skycom Tech Co. Ltd. (Skycom) and Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer Wanzhou Meng were charged with a variety of crimes, including bank fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud, wire fraud and violations of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), which serves as the statutory authority for the Iranian Transactions Sanctions Regulations (ITSR). In the Western District of Washington, the second unsealed indictment charges Huawei Device Co., Ltd. and Huawei Device USA, Inc. with 10 counts of theft of trade secrets conspiracy, attempted theft of trade secrets, wire fraud and obstruction of justice where Huawei employees were allegedly encouraged to steal technology from T-Mobile USA, Inc., a large U.S. telecommunications company. Continue Reading Chinese Telecom Giant Huawei Charged with Substantive Sanctions Violations; 23 Total Criminal Charges Overall

The White House has released a fact sheet listing the “historic results” of President Donald Trump’s first two years in office. For international trade, these results are listed:

”NEGOTIATING BETTER DEALS FOR THE AMERICAN PEOPLE: President Trump is negotiating fair and balanced trade deals that protect American industries and workers.

  • President Trump negotiated a new trade agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico to replace the disastrous and outdated North American Free Trade Agreement.
    • Once enacted by Congress, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) will better serve the interests of American workers and businesses.
    • USMCA will incentivize billions of dollars in auto and auto parts production in the United States and create a freer and fairer market for American agriculture.
    • USMCA also includes the strongest-ever provisions on labor, environmental, digital, and intellectual property protections to reflect the realities of the 21st century economy.
  • The President renegotiated the United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement to preserve and grow jobs in the American auto industry and increase American exports.
  • The United States and Japan are set to begin negotiations on a United States-Japan Trade Agreement.
  • President Trump is establishing a new trade relationship with the European Union (EU), working toward the elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers to transatlantic trade.
  • President Trump has established a Trade and Investment Working Group to lay the groundwork for post-Brexit trade with the United Kingdom (UK) and has notified Congress of his intent to negotiate a free trade agreement with the UK.
  • Under President Trump, the United States will no longer accept bad trade deals and unfair trade practices that harm American workers and industries.
    • One of the President’s first actions after taking office was withdrawing the United States from the terrible Trans-Pacific Partnership, which incentivized outsourcing.
    • In 2017, the Administration oversaw 82 antidumping and countervailing duty investigations.
  • President Trump is holding China accountable for its unfair trade practices, such as the theft of intellectual property, by imposing tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese goods.
    • Following President Trump’s successful meeting with President Xi in Buenos Aires, both agreed to conduct negotiations over 90 days to address the United States concerns.
  • American steel and aluminum jobs are coming back following President Trump’s tariffs to protect domestic industries that are vital to national security.
  • President Trump imposed tariffs to protect American-made washing machines and solar products that were hurt by import surges.
  • President Trump has expanded market access for American agricultural producers.
    • Argentina has opened to American pork and beef, Brazil to American beef, Japan to lamb and Idaho chipping potatoes, South Korea to American poultry, and more.
    • The Administration authorized $12 billion to aid farmers affected by unfair retaliatory tariffs.”

International trade and international trade disputes were a predominant focus of President Trump and his trade officials throughout 2018. Thompson Hine’s Trump and Trade team has prepared a slide presentation to provide our readers with a broad overview of the most significant trade actions taken by the Trump administration last year. From the renegotiation of the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which is now the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), to the many ongoing trade actions involving imports of steel, aluminum and products from China, it was a busy year. This overview concisely presents details and the current status of the president’s primary trade activities.

The presentation includes information on the current status of President Trump’s major trade actions, including NAFTA/USMCA negotiations, the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement, and other bilateral trade negotiations with Japan, the European Union and the United Kingdom. It also provides details on major trade and tariff actions occurring in 2018, such as the Section 232 steel/aluminum tariffs, the Section 232 automobile and automobile parts investigation, and the Section 301 China-related tariffs.

We invite you to stay abreast of continuing developments in 2019 via our blog, TrumpandTrade.com. To receive an email notification whenever a new post is published, please subscribe to the blog.

Happy new year!

Following a dinner meeting between the two leaders at the G-20 summit in early December, President Donald Trump announced that he and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to begin and complete negotiations on certain trade issues between the countries within 90 days. As part of that process, Trump agreed to postpone for 90 days in the ongoing Section 301 trade action involving China the import tariff increase on the third tranche of Chinese products from 10 percent to 25 percent scheduled for January 1, 2019 (see Trump and Trade Update of December 3, 2018).

The announcement immediately triggered questions regarding when the 90-day postponement would begin – from the day of the president’s announcement or from the original January 1, 2019 deadline. Last Friday, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) confirmed in a Notice of Modification of Action that the 90-day period will end March 1, 2019. It announced that the rate of additional duties on the third tranche of Chinese products will increase to 25 percent as of March 2, 2019 at 12:01 a.m. (EST) if China and the United States do not successfully negotiate an outcome to address the unfair trade acts, policies and practices covered in the Section 301 investigation. In brief remarks to the press, USTR Robert Lighthizer stated that this was a “hard deadline.”

The U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) determined December 7, 2018, by a 5-0 unanimous vote of its commissioners that U.S. industry is materially injured by reason of imports of common alloy aluminum sheet from China. This finding follows the determination of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration (ITA) in early November that such imports are subsidized and sold in the United States at less than fair value. (See Trump and Trade Update of November 9, 2018.) These are the first trade remedy cases that the Trump administration has “self-initiated,” starting a process that usually begins with a petition from the domestic industry. It’s been more than 25 years since the last self-initiated trade remedy case.

As a result of the USITC’s final affirmative injury determination, the ITA will now issue antidumping and countervailing duty orders on imports of common alloy aluminum sheet from China. The USITC, however, made a negative finding concerning critical circumstances as to imports of this product from China. As a result, imports of common alloy aluminum sheet from China will not be subject to retroactive antidumping or countervailing duties.

The USITC’s public report, Common Alloy Aluminum Sheet from China (Inv. Nos. 701-TA-591 and 731-TA-1399 (Final), USITC Publication 4861, December 2018), will contain the views of the USITC and information developed during the investigations. The report will be available by January 11, 2019; when available, it may be accessed on the USITC’s Official Publication Log.

At a dinner meeting on December 1, 2018, at the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires, U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to begin negotiations on changes regarding forced technology transfer, intellectual property protection, non-tariff barriers, cyber intrusions and cyber theft, services and agriculture. Both agreed to seek completion of such discussions over the next 90 days. As part of the deal, Trump agreed to postpone the import tariff increase on the third tranche of Chinese products from 10 percent to 25 percent scheduled for January 1, 2019. Xi agreed to purchase a not yet agreed upon, but “very substantial,” amount of agricultural, energy, industrial and other products from the United States to reduce the trade imbalance between the United States and China. If the talks do not result in a deal, the Trump administration will implement the 25 percent tariff on the third tranche of Chinese products.

In a brief press statement, Trump stated: “This was an amazing and productive meeting with unlimited possibilities for both the United States and China. It is my great honor to be working with President Xi.”

On September 18, 2018, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) announced the exclusion request process for the Trump administration’s second tranche of products covered under the Section 301 trade action against China for its unfair policies and practices involving forced technology transfers and intellectual property rights. On August 16, 2018, the United States implemented retaliatory tariffs of 25 percent on U.S. imports of 279 Chinese products covering an estimated trade value of $16 billion in 2018. Parties interested in this Section 301 product exclusion process should be aware that the deadline for requesting an exclusion from the applicable tariffs for any of these products is December 18, 2018.

Exclusion requests must be filed via www.regulations.gov on Docket USTR-2018-0032. While not mandatory, the USTR has encouraged interested parties to use its exclusion request form to submit exclusion requests, which may be accompanied by supporting documentation. Each request must specifically identify a particular product and provide supporting data and the rationale for the proposed exclusion. Each request will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

The USTR has specified that the following information must be provided:

  • Identification of the particular product in terms of the physical characteristics (e.g., dimensions, material composition or other characteristics) that distinguish it from other products within the covered 8-digit subheading. The USTR will not consider requests that identify the product at issue in terms of the identity of the producer, importer or ultimate consumer, actual use or chief use, trademarks or tradenames, nor requests that identify the product using criteria that cannot be made available to the public.
  • The 10-digit subheading of the HTSUS applicable to the particular product requested for exclusion.
  • The annual quantity and value of the Chinese-origin product that the applicant purchased in each of the last three years.

Each exclusion request should address (1) whether the particular product is available only from China or whether a comparable product is available from other sources, (2) whether the imposition of the tariff will cause “severe economic harm to the requestor,” and (3) whether the product is strategically important to the “Made in China 2025” program or other Chinese industrial programs. There is a process for filing requests containing business confidential information; however, such submissions must also be accompanied by a public version of the request.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has released an updated Section 301 report concerning China’s forced technology transfers and infringement of intellectual property rights. This report updates the original March 22, 2018 investigation findings and follows the U.S. government’s imposition of import tariffs on July 6, 2018, August 23, 2018 and September 24, 2018 on approximately $250 billion of Chinese products as part of the Trump administration’s response to China’s unfair trade practices. “We completed this update as part of this Administration’s strengthened monitoring and enforcement effort,” USTR Robert Lighthizer said. The report concludes that “China fundamentally has not altered its acts, policies, and practices related to technology transfer, intellectual property, and innovation, and indeed appears to have taken further unreasonable actions in recent months.” The updated report highlights these continuing trade practices by China:

  • Cyber-enabled Theft – The report states that China continues to conduct and support cyber-enabled theft and intrusions into the commercial networks of U.S. companies, as well as other means, in attempts to illegally to obtain information. This conduct provides the Chinese government with unauthorized access to intellectual property, including trade secrets or confidential business information, as well as technical data, negotiating positions and sensitive and proprietary internal business communications.
  • Foreign Ownership Restrictions – While China relaxed some of its foreign ownership restrictions and made certain other incremental changes in 2018, the report indicates that the Chinese government persists in using foreign investment restrictions to require or force the transfer of technology from U.S. companies to Chinese entities.
  • Discriminatory Licensing Restrictions – The report notes that (1) China continues to maintain discriminatory licensing restrictions by denying foreign patent holders basic patent rights to stop a Chinese entity from using the technology after a licensing agreement ends and (2) the United States has requested consultations and is pursuing dispute settlement under the provisions of the World Trade Organization.
  • Foreign Direct Investment in the United States – Despite a decline in Chinese investment in the United States in 2018, the report concludes that the Chinese government continues to direct and unfairly facilitate the systematic investment in, and acquisition of, U.S. companies and assets by Chinese entities, to obtain cutting-edge technologies and intellectual property and to generate large-scale technology transfer in industries deemed important by state industrial plans.
  • “Made in China 2025” – Since the initial Section 301 investigation findings, the report states that China has intentionally downplayed and limited attention to its technology-related industrial policies, even though it still targets the same high-technology industries. Instead, China continues to set explicit market share and other targets to be filled by Chinese producers both domestically and globally.

The USTR has indicated that it intends to continue its efforts to monitor any new developments and actions regarding China’s acts, policies and practices related to technology transfer, intellectual property and innovation.