On August 31, 2018, President Donald Trump officially notified Congress of his administration’s intent “to enter into a trade agreement with Mexico — and with Canada if it is willing, in a timely manner, to meet the high standards for free, fair, and reciprocal trade contained therein.” Notification was necessary under the provisions of the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation, which allows “fast track” consideration of trade agreements (i.e., Congress can vote to approve or reject a trade deal but cannot amend the text of the agreement). In the wake of the president’s notification, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer indicated that a resulting free trade agreement could either be bilateral (with Mexico) or trilateral (with Canada also), depending upon the final negotiated text of any agreement. It has been questioned, however, whether a bilateral agreement fulfills TPA requirements since Congress had been earlier notified of the Trump administration’s intent to renegotiate a trilateral North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). If Congress believes that a free trade agreement with only Mexico does not qualify for TPA consideration, amendments could be offered by Congress, potentially complicating any final agreement. With Congressional notification under the TPA, the actual text of any agreement must be submitted to Congress within the next 30 days for its consideration. Continue Reading Trump Administration Moves Forward with Proposed Trade Agreement with Mexico, Continues Negotiations with Canada

Late Wednesday night, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced targeted relief from the voluntary quotas the United States successfully negotiated with South Korea, Argentina and Brazil on steel, and with Argentina on aluminum. U.S. companies may now apply for product exclusions seeking steel or aluminum from these countries based on insufficient quantity or quality available from U.S. steel or aluminum producers. In such cases, the Department of Commerce has stated that an exclusion from the negotiated quota limits “may be granted and no tariff would be owed.” Previously, the product exclusion request processes were limited to steel and aluminum from countries that were fully subject to the Section 232 steel and aluminum tariffs of 25 percent and 10 percent, respectively, and did not allow for the submission of product exclusion requests for steel and aluminum products subject to the Section 232 tariffs from countries with negotiated quotas, which allowed imported products within the quotas to be exempt from those tariffs. Continue Reading President Trump Amends Section 232 Steel and Aluminum Product Exclusion Request Processes for Imports from Countries under Negotiated Quotas

In early August 2018, after it was determined that the Russian government was involved in an attempt to assassinate UK citizen Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal with the use of a Novichok nerve agent, the U.S. Department of State (State Department) ruled under the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991 that the Russian government had used chemical or biological weapons in violation of international law. In an August 27, 2018 Federal Register notice, the U.S. government announced its sanctions in response, which became effective that date:

  • Foreign Assistance: Termination of assistance to Russia under the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, except for urgent humanitarian assistance and food or other agricultural commodities or products.
  • Termination of Arms Sales: Termination of (a) sales to Russia under the Arms Export Control Act of any defense articles, defense services or design and construction services; and (b) licenses for the export to Russia of any item on the United States Munitions List.
  • Termination of Arms Sales Financing: Termination of all foreign military financing for Russia under the Arms Export Control Act.
  • Denial of U.S. Government Credit or Other Financial Assistance: Denial to Russia of any credit, credit guarantees, or other financial assistance by any department, agency or instrumentality of the U.S. government, including the Export-Import Bank of the United States.
  • Exports of National Security-Sensitive Goods and Technology: Prohibition on the export to Russia of any goods or technology on that part of the control list established under Section 2404(c)(1) of the Appendix to Title 50.

Continue Reading Department of State Imposes Additional Sanctions on Russia

On August 27, 2018, the United States and Mexico reached a preliminary agreement “in principle, subject to finalization and implementation,” to update the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) stated that the updated agreement will “support mutually beneficial trade leading to freer markets, fairer trade, and robust economic growth in North America.” In reaching the agreement with Mexico, President Trump stated that, “America has … finally turned the page on decades of unfair trade deals that sacrificed our prosperity and shipped away our companies, our jobs, and our Nation’s wealth.” Continue Reading United States and Mexico Agree in Principle to New Trade Agreement

On August 10, 2018, President Trump announced on Twitter that the United States would double Section 232 steel and aluminum tariffs on Turkey, referencing the drop of the Turkish lira as his reason for hiking the tariffs. Later that day, the White House issued a presidential proclamation directing that a 50 percent ad valorem tariff be imposed on steel articles imported from Turkey. U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross released a statement the same day saying that “since the imposition of the Section 232 tariff in March, exports to the United States have declined and domestic capacity utilization has increased, but not to levels sufficient to remove the threat to national security. Doubling the tariff on imports of steel from Turkey will further reduce these imports that the Department found threaten to impair national security as defined in Section 232.” The increased tariff rate went into effect on August 13, 2018.

In response, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan increased tariffs on several U.S.-origin products with a presidential decree published in the Turkish government’s Official Gazette on August 15, 2018. Turkey increased tariffs on products such as rice, tobacco, vehicles, alcohol, coal and cosmetics. With Erdoğan’s decree, tariffs on passenger cars, alcoholic drinks and leaf tobacco have been doubled, resulting in tariffs of 120 percent, 140 percent and 60 percent respectively. Other U.S. products now facing tariffs include nuts, cosmetics, plastics and paper. Turkey’s Vice President Fuat Oktay stated that the tariffs were “within the framework of the principle of reciprocity in retaliation for the conscious economic attacks by the United States.” These Turkish tariffs went into effect on August 15, 2018.

President Trump has signed into law the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act (FIRRMA) as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 (Title XVII of the NDAA). The FIRRMA expands the jurisdiction of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to address national security concerns over foreign exploitation of certain investment structures that traditionally have fallen outside of CFIUS jurisdiction. Additionally, FIRRMA modernizes CFIUS’s processes to better enable timely and effective reviews of covered transactions. Continue Reading President Trump Signs Reform Legislation Expanding CFIUS’s Authority to Review Foreign Investment in U.S. Companies

As reported by Law360 this week, a California federal judge struck down a food additive exporter’s attempt to throw out claims saying it had smuggled glycine into the United States from China without paying more than $11 million in required duties, calling the exporter’s use of the Fifth Amendment “both a sword and shield.”

View the article: Glycine Exporter Can’t Dodge $11M Smuggling Scheme Claim

The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has finalized and released its second list of Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) subheadings totaling approximately $16 billion worth of imports from China that will be subject to a 25 percent retaliatory tariff as part of the U.S. government’s ongoing Section 301 investigation and response to China’s intellectual property and forced technology transfer practices. This second list supplements the first list that went into effect on July 6, 2018, which totaled approximately $34 billion of imports from China. Combined, the two lists now cover approximately $50 billion worth of Chinese imports.

The second list contains 279 of the original 284 HTS tariff lines that were on a proposed HTS subheading list released on June 15, 2018. U.S. Customs and Border Protection will begin to collect the additional duties on these imports on August 23.

In connection with President Donald Trump’s May 8, 2018 decision to cease U.S. participation in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and to re-impose all sanctions lifted or waived in connection with the JCPOA, the president has issued a new Iran-related Executive Order, “Reimposing Certain Sanctions With Respect to Iran.” This completes the first of two wind-down periods for the re-imposition of certain Iranian sanctions. The terms in the Executive Order are effective at 12:01 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) on August 7, 2018. In addition, certain wind-down general licenses that allowed limited continued actions involving Iran will expire at 11:59 p.m. EDT on August 6, 2018. Continue Reading U.S. Treasury Re-Imposes Certain JCPOA-Related Sanctions on Iran

The Department of Commerce has announced the initiation of a Section 232 investigation into whether the present quantity and circumstances of uranium ore and product imports into the United States threaten to impair national security. The decision was in response to a petition filed by two U.S. uranium mining companies and consultations with industry stakeholders, members of Congress, the Department of Defense, Department of Energy and other interested parties. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has sent a letter to Secretary of Defense James Mattis informing him of the initiation of the investigation. Continue Reading Department of Commerce Initiates Section 232 Investigation into Uranium Imports