Background

Federal trade regulatory agencies have recently announced the following with regard to their operations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information, please contact trade attorney Lenny Feldman at (305) 894-1011. In addition, Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg has launched a new resource page to help members of the trade community keep track of the latest COVID-related policies and procedures and understand how best to respond.

Department of Agriculture

Effective April 20 for a period of 60 days, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service will not take enforcement action against the retail sale of commodities that lack an appropriate country of origin or method of production label, provided that the food does not make any country of origin or method of production claims.

Ordinarily, commodities subject to country of origin labeling requirements (muscle cut and ground meats: lamb, goat, and chicken; wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish; fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables; peanuts, pecans, and macadamia nuts; and ginseng) are not required to include a country of origin or method of production label when distributed to foodservice. Such labels are usually required when these foods are sold at retail establishments.

By exercising enforcement discretion concerning the latter requirement, APHIS is allowing food to be diverted from restaurants to retail establishments, which are currently experiencing greater demand.

Export-Import Bank

EXIM approved April 14 a resolution to temporarily exclude from EXIM coverage or financing any exports of critically-needed personal protective equipment and other medical supplies and equipment. 

International Trade Commission

The ITC has instituted an investigation that will identify imported goods related to the COVID-19 response and their source countries, tariff classifications, and applicable duty rates. The ITC’s report in this investigation is due by April 30.

In addition, the ITC has extended until June 10 its postponement of all in-person hearings in Section 337 intellectual property infringement proceedings.

Office of Foreign Assets Control

OFAC has issued a guidance document highlighting the most relevant exemptions, exceptions, and authorizations for humanitarian assistance and trade under the OFAC-administered sanctions programs for Iran, Venezuela, North Korea, Syria, Cuba, and Ukraine/Russia.

Separately, OFAC encourages persons affected by the COVID-19 global pandemic, including financial institutions and other businesses, to contact OFAC as soon as practicable if they believe they may experience delays in their ability to meet deadlines associated with regulatory requirements administered by OFAC. This includes requirements related to filing blocking and reject reports within ten business days, responses to administrative subpoenas, reports required by general or specific licenses, or any other required reports or submissions. OFAC explains that if a business chooses to respond to technical and resource challenges caused by the pandemic by temporarily reallocating sanctions compliance resources as part of a risk-based approach to compliance, this will be evaluated as a factor in determining the appropriate administrative response to an apparent violation that occurs during this period.

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