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Countries benefiting from the Generalized System of Preferences will be subject to heightened scrutiny under a new initiative announced Oct. 24 by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. USTR Robert Lighthizer said this “more proactive process” aims to help “ensure that countries that are not playing by the rules do not receive U.S. trade preferences.”
U.S. Customs and Border Protection has launched an initiative to enforce laws broadening the existing ban on imports of goods made with forced labor. This effort is currently focused on gathering information from importers, but CBP retains the authority to detain shipments suspected of noncompliance. In addition, importers may be at risk for monetary and criminal penalties.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission has approved the issuance of a final rule strengthening restrictions on phthalates in children’s toys and child care articles. This rule will take effect April 25, 2018.
As of Oct. 2 individuals and companies that import or export wildlife for commercial purposes may use the Fish and Wildlife Service’s new eLicense system to apply for the required FWS license or renew or amend a current or expired license.
A recent Congressional Research Service report finds that a White House decision to withdraw the U.S. from NAFTA or other existing free trade agreements could have substantial impacts even without accompanying congressional action. The report comes amid increasing concerns that the Trump administration may pull the U.S. out of NAFTA if Mexico and Canada do not agree to the administration’s proposed changes.
The next round is now planned for Nov. 17-21 in Mexico City and additional rounds will be scheduled through the first quarter of 2018. The three partner countries had been seeking to conclude an updated agreement by the end of 2017 to avoid political difficulties associated with election cycles that will ramp up early next year.
According to press reports, the U.S. expressed “strong interest” in a potential free trade agreement with Japan during the second round of the U.S.-Japan Economic Dialogue Oct. 16. However, there was some resistance to the idea from Tokyo, which maintains a preference for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Trump withdrew the U.S. from in January.
Importers, foreign governments, and others wishing to make changes in the coverage of the Generalized System of Preferences face an Oct. 17 deadline for submitting their petitions to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.
In an Oct. 12 decision the Court of International Trade ruled that an importer was grossly negligent in misclassifying numerous entries of footwear and ordered it to pay more than $1.5 million in unpaid duties. However, the court said more information is needed to determine whether the importer’s president and CEO is personally liable for the misclassification and thus a share of those duties.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission is proposing to determine that certain untreated and unfinished engineered wood products do not contain lead, ASTM F963 elements, or phthalates that exceed the statutory limits for children’s products, children’s toys, and child care articles.
Prior to the opening session U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer announced that negotiators had finalized a chapter on competition that “substantially updates the original NAFTA and goes beyond anything the United States has done in previous free trade agreements.” Lighthizer also said the talks will go two days longer than originally scheduled to allow more time to tackle tough issues.
U.S. manufacturers of fibers, yarns, and fabrics are urging the U.S. government to eliminate tariff preference levels as part of the ongoing NAFTA renegotiation, but apparel importers and retailers want the TPLs to remain in place. The U.S. reportedly tabled a proposal to do away with the TPLs at the third round of NAFTA talks in Ottawa.
A U.S. garment wholesaler has agreed to pay $1 million in damages and take other steps to settle civil fraud claims brought under the False Claims Act.
The U.S. and South Korea have agreed to negotiate amendments to their bilateral free trade agreement after weeks of uncertainty, including a Trump administration threat to withdraw the U.S. from the agreement.
Imports account for more than 90 percent of the seafood consumed in the U.S., with about half coming from aquaculture (fish farming) in countries like China, India, and Vietnam. However, the report states, not enough is being done to monitor and prevent the introduction of farmed seafood that may contain residues of drugs that can pose risks of cancer or allergic reactions in consumers.