Background

New tariffs, quotas, or other restrictions on imports from Vietnam could be imposed as early as January 2021 under a new timeline for the Trump administration’s Section 301 investigations into Vietnam’s acts, policies, and practices related to currency valuation and timber imports. Importers of wood products from Vietnam in particular could be affected by any such restrictions.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative launched the Section 301 investigations in October and set a Nov. 12 deadline for public comments. USTR had not previously scheduled any hearings in these investigations, leading to some speculation that it could be seeking to advance them quickly with an eye toward imposing tariffs sooner than later.

While that may still be the case, any such action will now be pushed back until at least January. Hearings will be held virtually on Dec. 28 (timber) and Dec. 29 (currency) and requests to appear at either hearing are due by Dec. 10. Post-hearing rebuttal comments will then be due by Jan. 6 (timber) and Jan. 7 (currency).

While these latter dates are just two weeks before the inauguration of President-elect Biden, it would not be unprecedented for the Trump administration to declare a Section 301 violation in one or both investigations and impose tariffs or other restrictions on imports from Vietnam within that timeframe.

Importers and others that could be affected by such measures may therefore want to ensure their voices are heard at the upcoming hearings. USTR notes that the hearings will include testimony on the issues being evaluated (e.g., the extent to which Vietnamese goods made from illegal timber are imported into the U.S., and the nature and level of burden on U.S. commerce caused by the undervaluation of Vietnam’s currency) as well as what, if any, actions should be taken in response.

USTR states that if tariffs, quotas, or other restrictions affecting specific products or services are subsequently considered in either investigation it will offer a further opportunity for public comment.

For more information on the potential impact of these investigations and/or how your company can participate in the upcoming hearings, please contact Nicole Bivens Collinson or Kristen Smith.

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