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Last week’s congressional elections could result in changes to some aspects of the Trump administration’s trade policies but may not have a significant effect on others. The House Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees will each have new leaders, and Ways and Means will also see substantial changes in its Republican membership. In addition, Democrats wrested control of the House of Representatives from the Republicans but the GOP strengthened its hand in the Senate.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection has provided the following information on submitting imports of products excluded from the Section 232 additional tariffs on steel (25 percent) and aluminum (10 percent) products.
More than a dozen major trade associations are protesting a provision in the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement that would allow the U.S. to lower the value of imports below which goods may enter duty-free to the levels maintained by Canada and Mexico. The groups said such a change “would harm American businesses, workers, and consumers, reduce incentives to improve U.S. e-commerce infrastructure and undermine U.S. global leadership in e-commerce policy.”
As part of an expanded effort against economic espionage, the Department of Justice recently filed its first-ever civil lawsuit seeking to prevent foreign companies from exporting to the U.S. goods manufactured using trade secrets stolen from the U.S. The DOJ also announced a new initiative to identify and prosecute more trade secret theft cases.
Implementing changes to drawback, modernizing the customs broker regulations, and changes concerning importer identification are among U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s regulatory goals over the next few months. These and other proposed and final rules are included in the semiannual regulatory agendas of the departments of Homeland Security and the Treasury.
The processes and procedures used to review and adjudicate requests to exclude specific products from the Section 232 additional tariffs on imported steel and aluminum will be subject to an audit by the Department of Commerce. The DOC said the objectives of its audit are to determine whether the processes and procedures in place for reviewing these requests are being adhered to and whether decisions are reached in a consistent and transparent manner.
Effective Nov. 1 China lowered its import duties on 1,585 tariff lines as part of a long-term plan to diversify sourcing away from the U.S. The move is expected to benefit suppliers such as the European Union, southeast Asia, and countries participating in China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative.
The Trump administration has received thousands of requests for exclusions from the additional tariffs it has imposed on imports from China but has not yet approved any, according to information posted on the website of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. Hundreds of requests have been denied while the rest are at various stages of review.
The U.S. rejected this week efforts by several trading partners to pursue litigation at the World Trade Organization against the additional tariffs it imposed earlier this year on imported steel and aluminum. The U.S. asserted that those tariffs followed a decision that such imports threaten national security and therefore cannot be challenged at the WTO.
Dozens of goods are being removed from eligibility for preferential duty treatment under the Generalized System of Preferences in a presidential proclamation issued Oct. 30. These and the other changes set forth below will be effective with respect to goods entered or withdrawn from warehouse for consumption on or after 12:01 a.m. EDT on Nov. 1.
The Bureau of Industry and Security has added one entity in China to the Entity List, which lists entities restricted from receiving U.S. exports of goods controlled under the Export Administration Regulations. BIS is adding this entity effective Oct. 30 after determining that it poses a significant risk of becoming involved in activities that could have a negative impact on U.S. national security interests.
Stating that the current situation at the World Trade Organization “is no longer sustainable,” 13 WTO members have identified a functioning dispute settlement system, a reinvigorated negotiating function, and more transparency into members’ trade policies as the three areas they intend to focus on as part of an emerging WTO reform effort. In a joint communique issued at the end of an Oct. 24-25 meeting in Ottawa, these members expressed a “common resolve for rapid and concerted action” on these issues and said they will meet again in January to review progress.
Members of the trade community are being asked to provide input on what should be included in a U.S. trade agreement with Japan. The Trump administration has announced plans to launch negotiations on such an agreement no earlier than Jan. 14, 2019. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative states that its goal is for a final agreement to address tariff and non-tariff barriers and “achieve fairer, more balanced trade.”
Further enhancing supply chain security, modernizing import and export processes, improving trade intelligence, and maximizing efficiencies are the four major areas U.S. Customs and Border Protection will focus on over the next two years. These goals are set forth in CBP’s “Trade Strategy 2020,” which builds on the tools and authorities provided by the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act and provides a framework for agency priorities within its overarching mission of providing trade security, enforcement, and facilitation.
The New Zealand Customs Service reports that it can now make rulings on the value of imported goods and that importers, agents, and brokers can apply for binding valuation rulings. In addition, importers that cannot determine the value of imported goods at the time of importation can now use the provisional values service to give a reasonable estimate of that value, which can then be finalized at a later date.