It’s official – US issues trade tariffs on steel and aluminum from the EU, Canada and Mexico.

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The Whitehouse issued two presidential proclamations that placed 25% steel and 10% aluminum tariffs on imports from the European Union, Canada and Mexico.

The full proclamations can be found here for steel and here for aluiminum.

If you have any questions on how these new tariffs will impact your business or what options you may have – contact experienced antidumping attorney David Hsu at 832-896-6288 or by email at dhsu@givensjohnston.com for a free evaluation.

Importer pays $500,000 fine for false claims to evade customs duties.

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Earlier in February of this year, the Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs released news of a settlement by Home Furnishings Resource Group Inc. agreement to pay $500,000 in settlement for False Claims Act allegations.

Background:
Home Furnishings Resource Group Inc. (HFRG) agreed to pay the $500,000 after they were alleged to have violated the False Claims Act on customs declarations in order to avoid paying antidumping duties (ADD) on “wooden bedroom furniture” imported from China.

Customs alleged the Hermitage, Tennessee company did not pay antidumping duties from 2009 to 2014 by misclassifying furniture as “non-bedroom” on import documents. By misclassifying as “non-bedroom”, HFRG did not pay the required ADD on wooden-bedroom furniture.

Why do we have antidumping duties?
Antidumping duties protect American manufacturers against foreign companies who make the same goods at a price below cost and “dump” the products into the US. The Department of Commerce (Commerce) is responsible for assessing whether goods are dumped into the US – and if so, assign an ADD amount to those imported goods.

The addition of a duty for these goods is to protect U.S. businesses and “level the playing field for domestic companies”.

The Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection (CBP) then collects these duties – wooden bedroom furntiure’s ADD rate was 216% and non-bedroom furniture was not subject to any duty.

How was HFRG caught?
University Loft Company, a competitor of HFRG, used the whistleblower provision of the False Claims Act, permitting private parties to sue on behalf of the US against those who falsely claim federal funds or, as in this case, who avoid paying funds owed to the government. The act also allows the whistleblower to receive a share of any funds recovered. University Loft Company will receive approximately $75,000.

Do you know anyone violating the False Claims Act?
If you believe an importer has been misclassifying goods to avoid payment of duties, contact David Hsu at 832-896-6288 or by email at dhsu@givensjohnston.com.

Cash seizures by CBP during busy Memorial Day and tips on what you need to do if you have had your cash seized.

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CBP media release noted multiple drug arrests over the Memorial Day weekend at the Buffalo area (Peace Bridge and Lewiston Ports of Entry). Most of the incidents involved travelers with illegal substances and arrests on several US travelers for outstanding warrants.

Lastly, CBP seized $20,000 in currency from a Canadian citizen for failure to report currency over $10,000.

The media release indicates CBP seized the currency and “the traveler was refused entry into the United States”.

What? At least let the guy in –

If you are ever traveling and have your currency seized, be sure to do the following:

  1. Give Customs and Border Protection your real address. They will send you a certified letter.
  2. Cooperate with Customs officials.
  3. Disclose all the money you have up front.
  4. You will be asked to sign a FinCen form, sign it only after you write down all the money you really have.

Here are some other tips:

  1. CBP will seize all currency, doesn’t matter if it is in US dollars or in currency of another country.
  2. Money orders, checks also count, it is not just cash that is counted.
  3. It doesn’t matter if you are leaving or entering the country – you have to declare the currency anytime you ENTER or LEAVE the US.
  4. Check your mail within 1-2 weeks of your currency seizure.
  5. Do not ignore the letter you will receive from Customs.
  6. Call experienced Currency Seizure attorney David Hsu immediately at 832-896-6288 or email at dhsu@givensjohnston.com.

Section 301 Duties to be announced by June 15, 2018.

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According to a Whitehouse.gov statement released today (May 29, 2018) titled: “Statement on Steps to Protect Domestic Technology and Intellectual Property from China’s Discriminatory and Burdensome Trade Practices” found here, the US will impose a 25% tariff on $50 billion of goods imported from China “containing industrially significant technology, including those related to the “Made in China 2025” program.  The final list of covered imports will be announced by June 15, 2018, and tariffs will be imposed on those imports shortly thereafter.

What is the “Made in China 2025” Program?
Made in China 2025 (Chinese: 中国制造2025) is a plan issued by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in May 2015 to make China more self-sufficient and a manufacturing superpower in high-tech industries. An English version of the initiative can be found here.

What is Section 301?
Section 301 of the U.S. Trade Act of 1974, authorizes the President to take all appropriate action, including retaliation, to obtain the removal of any act, policy, or practice of a foreign government that violates an international trade agreement or is unjustified, unreasonable, or discriminatory, and that burdens or restricts U.S. commerce.

Section 301 is worded in general terms and allows for broad discretion from the President.

What are other points mentioned in the press release?

  1. There will also be other restrictions and increased export controls for Chinese persons and entities and will be announced on June 30, 2018.
  2. The US will continue litigating in the WTO for violations of intellectual property against China related to licensing of intellectual property. The US filed the case with the TWO on March 23, 2018.

Check back here on June 15, 2018 for the final list and tariff amounts to be imposed on the goods from China. If you have any questions how these Section 301 tariffs will impact your business, contact David Hsu at 832-896-6288 or by email at dhsu@givensjohnston.com.

No US-Rwanda Trade War Updates

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Flag of Rwanda via Wikipedia

A few days ago I posed about a pending US-Rwanda trade war over Rwanda’s import duty on second hand clothes imported into Rwanda.

My post mentioned a May 28th deadline in which the US asked Rwanda to reverse or reduce tariffs on imports of secondhand clothing – as of today, there has been no news. Yesterday (Monday, May 28th) was Memorial Day in the US, so a decision will likely be made some time this week.

US-Rwanda trade war?

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Flag of Rwanda via Wikipedia

Unexpected title I know, usually we associate “trade war” with “China”, however, the Trump administration has given Rwanda until May 28th to reduce the tax on imported clothes (the US is a major exporter of second hand clothes to Rwanda – ever wonder what happens to those “clothes and shoes” that are donated to the parking lot donation boxes?)

Background:
In 2016, the East African Community (EAC) composed of Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda increased tariffs on used clothing. Specifically, Rwanda increased the duties by 20 cents to $2.50 per kilogram. This 20 cent increase is at risk of hurting Rwanda’s export benefits under the US African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). The AGOA allows certain African countries (like Rwanda) duty-free access to the US market for 6,500 exported products. Since AGOA was passed, duty-free exports to the US from AGOA qualified countries have increased 400% to over 1.0 billion since the law was passed.

AGOA Products:
A full list of those products can be found here.

The Trump administration is threatening Rwanda with losing certain benefits under the AGOA after a compliant was filed last year from the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association (SMART), a US-based organization which represents companies that collect and resell Americans’ used clothing. SMART claims the Rwanda tariffs have a big impact on the $1 billion dollar used clothing export industry.

Arguments from both sides:
SMART claims the Rwandan tariffs hurt their business while poor Rwandans also claim the increased prices of second hand clothes in Rwanda impact their ability to buy clothes at affordable prices. However, Rwanda’s government claims an increase in second-hand clothing prices will make locally made Rwanda clothes more price competitive. If the tariffs increase second-hand clothing prices and move people towards purchasing new Rwandan made clothes, the Rwandan government claims more factories will be built, more jobs will be created and the economy will improve.

What will happen?
Check back on May 28th, I will update as soon as I find anything. If anything, I’m expecting China to fill the void. A cursory search on Alibaba for “used clothes in bales” shows lots of offerings targeted for export to East Africa and the general African market.

The real reason Trump is working to reverse the 7 year ZTE ban? To help U.S. companies!

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President Trump via whitehouse.gov

I’ve read almost every ZTE-related article and no article has mentioned what I believe to be the real reason behind President Trump’s efforts to reverse or implement other alternatives to remove ZTE’s 7-year ban on purchasing U.S. hardware and software.

The real reason President Trump is trying to remove the ban is an effort to help US companies. US based companies such as Qualcomm, Intel, Broadcom and Oclaro supply hardware to ZTE. Software companies such as Alphabet supply and provide the Android mobile operating system and updates found on ZTE phones. A 7-year ban means the Google Play Appstore will lose sales on both apps and in-app purchases.

While Trump has faced backlash from Congress, I believe Trump’s efforts are in the interest of helping US companies and improving their stock prices.

U.S. Department of Commerce Finds Dumping of Imports of Fine Denier Polyester Staple Fiber from China, India, Korea, and Taiwan.

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Image of denier polyester staple fiber courtesy of the Tianjin Glory Tang Technology Co., Ltd.

According to a U.S. Department of Commerce (Commerce) news release – the Commerce Department announced the affirmative final determinations in the antidumping duty (AD) investigations of imports of fine denier polyester staple fiber from China, India, Korea, and Taiwan.

Commerce determined that exporters from China, India, Korea, and Taiwan sold fine denier polyester staple fiber in the United States at less than fair value. The dumping margins determined by Commerce are as follows:

China – 65.17 – 103.06 percent
India – 21.43 percent
Korea – 0 – 45.23 percent
Taiwan – 0 – 48.86 percent

With today’s decision, Commerce will instruct U.S. Customs and Border Protection to collect cash deposits from importers of fine denier polyester staple fiber from China, India, Korea, and Taiwan based on the final rates, as appropriate.

I find it ironic, one of the petitioners is Nan Ya Plastics Corporation, America – a company that previously imported fine denier polyester staple fiber.

One interested statistic in the Commerce release – the Trump administration has 114 new antidumping and countervailing duty investigations since the beginning of the administration compared to the the 64 initiations in the last 489 days of the previous administration.

If you are an importer of fine denier polyster staple fiber from China, India, Korea or Taiwan and have questions how this decision may impact your business, contact David Hsu at 832-896-6288 or by email at dhsu@givensjohnston.com.

CNBC reports the US and ZTE are working on alternatives to the denial order issued against ZTE back in April of this year.

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Current Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told CNBC today that the US may consider other measures, such as placing compliance officers at ZTE. The compliance officers would report back to the Department of Commerce.

Background:
The Department of Commerce banned ZTE from purchasing hardware and software from U.S. manufacturers because ZTE was found to sell American parts to Iran and North Korea. The Commerce department prohibits the sale of US goods to North Korea, Sudan, Syria, Iran and Cuba. ZTE is most commonly known in the US for their smart phones but ZTE also manufactures telecomunications equipment.

Check back here for the latest news as they develop.

And if you have any export controls or export compliance issues – contact David Hsu at 832-896-6288 or by email at dhsu@givensjohnston.com.

ZTE estimated to lose $3.1 billion due to US sanctions (Bloomberg).

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Bloomberg news reported that China’s ZTE Corp is estimated to lose at least 20 billion yuan ($3.1 billion) due to Washington’s ban on U.S. firms hardware and software. The Bloomberg article cited unnamed sources.

Bloomberg also reports that ZTE is hopeful that the United States and China will be able to reach a deal that would remove the ban and has a plan in place allowing the telecoms firm to “swing idled factories into action within hours” of the ban being officially lifted.