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August 23 2012 Issue

Thursday, August 23, 2012
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

Complaints Against Argentina’s Trade Restrictions Escalated with New WTO Cases  

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative announced Aug. 21 that it has filed a dispute settlement case at the World Trade Organization against trade restrictive measures applied to goods imported into Argentina. The U.S. was joined by Japan, and the European Union filed a similar caseearlier this year. 

USTR states that the measures at issue include the broad use of non-transparent import licensing requirements, which now apply to approximately 600 eight-digit tariff lines in Argentina’s goods schedule covering items such as laptops, home appliances, air conditioners, tractors, machinery and tools, autos and auto parts, plastics, chemicals, tires, toys, footwear, textiles and apparel, luggage, bicycles and paper products. In conjunction with these licensing requirements Argentina has adopted informal trade balancing requirements and other schemes whereby companies seeking to obtain authorization to import products must agree to export goods of an equal or greater value, make investments in Argentina, lower prices of imported goods and/or refrain from repatriating profits. 

The U.S. is alleging that these measures violate Article XI:1 of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade 1994, which generally prohibits restrictions on imports of goods, including those made effective through import licenses. USTR states that the measures also appear to violate various provisions of the Agreement on Import Licensing Procedures, which contains requirements related to the administrative procedures used to implement import licensing regimes. 

According to press reports, Argentina has responded by filing a WTO case alleging that Spain has discriminated against its exports of biodiesel and pledging to take similar action against U.S. restrictions on imports of Argentinean lemons and beef. 

DOC Developing Procedures for Considering Requests for Apparel Safeguards on Colombia  

The Department of Commerce is accepting comments through Sept. 24 on procedures for considering requests for, and public comments on, textile and apparel safeguard actions on imports from Colombia. This safeguard mechanism applies when, as a result of the elimination of a customs duty under the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, a Colombian textile or apparel article is being imported into the United States in such increased quantities, in absolute terms or relative to the domestic market for that article, and under such conditions as to cause serious damage or actual threat thereof to a U.S. industry producing a like or directly competitive article. In these circumstances, the U.S. may increase duties on the imported article from Colombia to a level that does not exceed the lesser of the prevailing U.S. normal trade relations/most-favored-nation duty rate for the article or the NTR/MFN duty rate in effect on the day before the FTA entered into force. The DOC’s Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements has been given authority to collect information to determine whether a domestic textile or apparel industry is being adversely impacted by imports of these products from Colombia.

AD Duties Sought on Mexican Tomatoes; Sept. 4 Deadline for Comments  

After 16 years, the U.S. tomato producing industry is once again seeking the imposition of antidumping duties on fresh tomatoes from Mexico. Interested parties have until Sept. 4 to provide their input to the Department of Commerce. 

Since 1996 the DOC has held in suspension an AD duty investigation on all fresh and chilled tomatoes from Mexico except tomatoes for processing. Under this suspension agreement, which was last renewed in January 2008, Mexican tomato producers and exporters have agreed to prevent the suppression or undercutting of prices of domestic fresh tomatoes by selling their tomatoes at or above reference prices calculated by Commerce. 

However, the U.S. tomato industry recently requested that the DOC allow it to withdraw its original AD duty petition and terminate the suspension agreement. Commerce has initiated a changed circumstances review to evaluate this request and set a Sept. 4 deadline for the submission of comments. If the request is granted the domestic industry is expected to file a new case that could result in AD duties against imports of Mexican tomatoes, posing a potential hardship to exporters and importers of this product. 

If you have questions, or if you would like further information on this issue, please contact Kristen Smith or Mark Ludwikowski at (202) 216-9307.

Of Note: Presidential Candidates on Trade, Bosnia Joins Harmonized Convention  

Rhetoric aside, Obama and Romney not far apart on trade 

Bosnia and Herzegovina becomes the 144th Contracting Party to the Harmonized System Convention

Trade in Environmental Services Subject of New ITC Study  

The U.S. International Trade Commission has launched an investigation into trade and market trends in the environmental services sector. In its request for this investigation, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative noted that since the ITC’s last reports on this topic were issued in 2004 and 2005 the U.S. and global markets for environmental services have undergone significant change, with overall demand continuing to rise while factors such as new technologies, tightening government budgets, and growing interest in environmental sustainability have altered the means through which such services are supplied. 

The ITC’s forthcoming report to USTR will estimate the size of the U.S. and global markets for certain environmental and related services, including water and wastewater services, solid and hazardous waste services, and remediation services; identify top suppliers and key country markets for such services; investigate factors affecting supply and demand in these market segments; and highlight market developments that have occurred within the last five years. It will also identify key export and import markets, estimate the value of trade and investment in the segments under investigation and discuss recent trends in these areas. Finally, the report will identify barriers to trade and investment in the segments under investigation, discuss recent efforts to eliminate those barriers and investigate the potential impact of further liberalization. 

The ITC expects to deliver its report to USTR by March 29, 2013. A public hearing will be held Oct. 22 and requests to appear at this hearing are due no later than Oct. 4. Written submissions for the record may be submitted through Oct. 30.

Efforts to Improve Trade Remedy Procedures Advance  

The International Trade Administration unveiled this week the second phase of its electronic document filing system for antidumping and countervailing duty proceedings. The AD/CV Centralized Electronic Service System was first launched in August 2011 and requires parties to electronically submit public and proprietary documents for the record of AD/CV proceedings. IA ACCESS Release 2 gives interested parties and the general public online access to all public versions of documents submitted to the proceeding record since that time. Release 3, which is scheduled for 2013, will make proprietary documents available to authorized external parties. 

Separately, the ITA has extended from Aug. 24 to Sept. 24 the period for public comment on a proposal to amend the definition of “factual information” submitted in AD and CV duty proceedings and establish specific time limits for the submission of such information. The ITA has said that this proposed rule would not change the types of information that can be submitted but instead would allow for more accurate classification of factual information. Click here for more information.

Potential IPR Probes of Magnets, Communication Devices Evaluated for Public Interest Issues  

The International Trade Commission is requesting comments no later than Aug. 31 on any public interest issues raised by separate Section 337 intellectual property rights infringement complaints filed against the following products. 

- certain sintered rare earth magnets, methods of making same and products containing same (filed on behalf Hitachi Metals Ltd. and Hitachi Metals North Carolina Ltd.) 

- certain two-way global satellite communication devices, systems and components thereof (filed on behalf of BriarTek IP Inc.) 

Comments should address whether the issuance of exclusion orders and/or cease and desist orders pursuant to these complaints would affect the public health and welfare in the U.S., competitive conditions in the U.S. economy, the production of like or directly competitive articles in the U.S., or U.S. consumers. In particular, the ITC is interested in comments that: 

- explain how the articles potentially subject to the orders are used in the U.S.; 

- identify any public health, safety or welfare concerns in the U.S. relating to the potential orders; 

- identify like or directly competitive articles that the complainants, their licensees or third parties make in the U.S. that could replace the subject articles if they were to be excluded; 

- indicate whether the complainants, their licensees and/or third-party suppliers have the capacity to replace the volume of articles potentially subject to the requested orders within a commercially reasonable time; and

- explain how the requested orders would impact U.S. consumers.

Foreign Regulatory Changes Could Affect Exports of Appliances, Food, Fuel  

According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the World Trade Organization has been notified of regulatory changes that may affect exports of specific products to the following countries. For information on how these restrictions may affect your business, contact ST&R. 

Chile – Oct. 1, 2013, effective date of emission standard for residential appliances burning firewood or other biomass fuels 

Korea – proposed amendment to technical standards on CATV broadcasting station facilities (comments due by Oct. 20) 

Nicaragua – technical standard specifying quality and safety requirements for canned tuna and bonito (comments due by Oct. 20) 

Uganda – final draft standards on antibacterial solid toilet soap, denatured fuel ethanol used for blending with gasoline, and gasohol (comments due by Oct. 20)

Environmental Technologies Trade Panel Seeking Members  

The International Trade Administration is requesting no later than Sept. 21 nominations for membership on the Environmental Technologies Trade Advisory Committee. The ETTAC advises on the development and administration of programs to expand U.S. exports of environmental technologies, goods and services and products that comply with U.S. environmental, safety and related requirements. This includes trade policy development and negotiations; the effect of U.S. government policies, regulations and programs and foreign government policies and practices; the competitiveness of U.S. industry and its ability to compete for opportunities in international markets; the identification of priority markets with high immediate returns for U.S. exports; strategies to increase private sector awareness and effective use of U.S. government export promotion programs; the development of complementary industry and trade association export promotion programs; and the development of U.S. government programs to encourage producers to enter new foreign markets. 

Members of the ETTAC are drawn from U.S. environmental technologies manufacturing and services companies, U.S. trade associations, and U.S. private sector organizations involved in the promotion of environmental technologies, products, and services. Candidates should be senior executive-level representatives and must have experience in exporting environmental technologies products and services. The ITA particularly seeks applicants with experience in one or more of the following sectors: air pollution control and monitoring technologies, analytic devices and services, environmental engineering and consulting services, financial services relevant to the environmental sector, process and pollution prevention technologies, solid and hazardous waste management technologies, and water and wastewater treatment technologies. Federally registered lobbyists are not eligible for appointment, nor are individuals registered as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

USDA Reviewing Information Collections on Plant Imports  

The Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is accepting comments through Oct. 22 on the proposed three-year extension of an information collection associated with its regulations governing the importation of plants, fruits, vegetables, roots, bulbs, seeds, unmanufactured wood articles and other plant products. In administering these regulations APHIS collects information from persons both within and outside the U.S. who are involved in growing, packing, handling, transporting and importing regulated articles. These collections include: 

- applications for permit to import certain plants or plant products; 

- marking containers used to import various plants or plant products in a certain way so that APHIS inspectors can accurately identify them and match them to their accompanying documentation; and 

- phytosanitary inspection certificates, which are completed by plant health officials in the originating country and attest to the condition of the shipment with respect to plant pests at the time it was inspected prior to its export to the U.S.

Commercial Labs and Gaugers Approved  

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has announced that the following companies have been accredited as commercial laboratories and/or approved as commercial gaugers. 

- effective Oct. 12, 2011, Columbia Inspection Inc. of Richmond, Calif., has been approved to gauge and accredited to test petroleum and petroleum products, organic chemicals and vegetable oils for customs purposes 

- effective May 8, 2012, Inspectorate America Corporation of Aston, Pa., has been approved to gauge and accredited to test petroleum and petroleum products, organic chemicals and vegetable oils for customs purposes 

- effective Aug. 22, 2011, Inspectorate America Corporation of Baton Rouge, La., has been approved to gauge petroleum and petroleum products, organic chemicals and vegetable oils for customs purposes 

- effective Aug. 4, 2011, The Strawn Group of Houston, Texas, has been approved to gauge petroleum and petroleum products, organic chemicals and vegetable oils for customs purposes 

- effective Sept. 28, 2011, Inspectorate America Corporation of Lutcher, La., has been approved to gauge and accredited to test petroleum and petroleum products, organic chemicals and vegetable oils for customs purposes

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