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A tax reform proposal unveiled by the House of Representatives Nov. 2 includes several provisions that would affect the international trade community.
The Court of International Trade ruled Oct. 31 that “a relatively well-made, durable, dry clean only Santa Claus costume” is properly classified as wearing apparel and is therefore excluded from classification as a festive article under HTSUS 9505.90.60, which would have qualified it for duty-free treatment.
Forty members of the House of Representatives have called for Congress to approve a long-term extension of the Generalized System of Preferences before it expires Dec. 31. After the program’s last expiration it remained unauthorized for two years, costing importers millions of dollars, and there has been some concern that a similar lapse could follow the upcoming expiration.
The Department of Commerce has concluded that China remains a non-market economy country for purposes of assessing antidumping duties. The determination was immediately criticized by China, which has cases on this issue pending at the World Trade Organization against both the U.S. and the European Union.
Under a recently-signed memorandum of agreement the departments of Commerce and Homeland Security will collaborate to help U.S. businesses expand their international e-commerce operations and better understand policies and procedures that impact e-commerce. They will also work to identify and eliminate tariff and non-tariff barriers to e-commerce, especially those that impede the ability of small and medium-sized enterprises to comply with customs laws and regulations.
The U.S. is claiming a “complete and resounding” victory in a long-running dispute with Mexico after a World Trade Organization panel found that March 2016 amendments to its dolphin-safe tuna labeling rules bring the U.S. into compliance with its WTO obligations. The decision precludes Mexico from imposing the $163.2 million worth of retaliatory sanctions the WTO had previously authorized, though Mexico said it would file an appeal.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection has 14 open investigations into the alleged use of forced labor in the production of specific products from specific countries and will halt imports of such goods if and when the statutory standard for doing so is met, according to Acting CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan.
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.