Background

Imported low-value goods shipped directly to U.S. consumers could become subject to Section 301 tariffs under a proposed rule being developed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. This proposal could also result in such goods being assessed regular most-favored-nation duties.

For more information, or for assistance responding to this development, please contact Tom Travis or Nicole Bivens Collinson. Click here to register for ST&R’s upcoming webinar on mitigating Section 301 tariffs.

19 USC 1321, commonly referred to as Section 321, enables CBP to admit qualifying goods duty- and tax-free provided they are imported by one person on one day and have a total fair market value of $800 or less. Currently this so-called de minimis exemption applies to not only base MFN duties but also section 301 tariffs. Such tariffs are already in place against hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of imports from China and about $7.5 billion worth of goods from European Union member countries. They have also been threatened against goods from the EU, France, Austria, Brazil, the Czech Republic, India, Indonesia, Italy, Spain, Turkey, and the United Kingdom in ongoing disputes over digital services taxes.

CBP has now submitted to the Office of Management and Budget for regulatory approval a proposed rule that would apparently except goods subject to Section 301 tariffs from the Section 321 exemption. As the text of this proposal is not yet available, it is unclear whether it would cover only goods subject to the Section 301 tariffs on China or whether goods subject to other current or potential Section 301 tariffs would be covered as well. In addition, if the Section 321 exemption is removed for these goods they could become subject to regular MFN duties as well.

The reason CBP is apparently proposing to remove this exemption is unknown at this time. However, the Trump administration may feel that further use of this exemption would reduce the effectiveness of the Section 301 tariffs in addressing specific trade problems.

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