The NAFTA (USMCA) loyalty oath?

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As has been widely reported, the new NAFTA agreement (USMCA) contains what has been branded a “loyalty oath” among the US, Canada and Mexico.

What is this “loyalty oath”?
In short, the oath says that in the event any USMCA member enters into a free trade agreement (FTA) with a non-market country, the other two remaining countries can leave the agreement and form their own bilateral trade pact.

Why is this clause in the USMCA?
This clause is likely an effort by the US Administration to isolate China economically since neither Canada or Mexico would want to leave the USMCA. This clause is also aimed at limiting the imports from China to Mexico/Canada for shipment into the US duty free.

Is a “loyalty oath” found in other trade agreements?
Currently, no, however this inclusion in the USMCA may be an indication of what will occur in future trade agreements to further isolate China from their trading partners.

Is the “loyalty oath” set in stone?
Right now, no, the disclaimer on the current USMCA text states: “Subject to Legal Review for Accuracy, Clarity, and Consistency Subject to Language Authentication“. Only upon ratification by all countries can we know for sure whether this is in the agreement.

What is a market or non-market economy?
This loyalty oath against non-market economies is likely aimed at China while not specifically named in the agreement. Beijing has asked for recognition as a “market economy” within the World Trade Organization (WTO) since their accession agreement expired in December 2016. If China is branded a “market economy”, this would limit trade remedies such as anti-dumping/countervailing duties to be used against Chinese imports.

What are the non-market economies around the world?
According to the European Union, besides China, the other non-market economies include Vietnam, Kazakhstan, Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

Where can I read the full text of the “loyalty oath”
I could not find any news sources that cited the USMCA section.

The exact text of the oath is copied below:

4. Entry by any Party into a free trade agreement with a non-market country, shall allow the other Parties to terminate this Agreement on six-month notice and replace this Agreement with an agreement as between them (bilateral agreement).

The official PDF on the US Trade Representative website can be accessed here: (last accessed October 9, 2018).

https://ustr.gov/sites/default/files/files/agreements/FTA/USMCA/32%20Exceptions%20and%20General%20Provisions.pdf

See Article 32.10 (4)

If you have any questions about NAFTA or the USMCA and how this may impact your business, call experienced trade attorney, David Hsu at 832-896-6288 or by email at dhsu@givensjohnston.com.

Brief Summary of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

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After 13 months of negotiations, the United States, Mexico and Canada have concluded the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) to replace the 25 year-old NAFTA agreement. This new agreement was reached on September 30th and will not come into force until ratified (estimated to be sometime in early 2019). Below is a brief summary of some of the changes:

Dairy:
Canada to increase US access to Canada’s diary market through an increase in the Tariff Rate Quotas (TRQs) for US milk ,cream and cheese. Outside quota imports to Canada were previously subject to a 300% tariff. Canada will also take steps to eliminate their “Class 6 and 7” milk pricing structure that had the impact of making domestically produced milk more competitive in price than foreign milk.

Poultry, eggs and sugar:
Canada allowed greater access to the US exporters for poultry, eggs and sugar while the US increased their quotas of Canadian sugar and sugar-containing products.

Notice Requirement for Tariff Changes for Certain Goods:
Canada needs to notify the US of any proposed change to Canada’s tariff schedule.

Grain:
The US and Canada will avoid using discriminatory grain grading standards.

Wine, Spirits and Beer:
The new agreement allows the recognition and protection of geographic indications for goods, such as “Tennessee Whiskey” can only be used by US manufacturers and “Canadian Whiskey” can only be used by Canadian whiskey producers. “Tequila” will also only be allowed to be used by Mexican manufacturers.

Textiles:
The USMCA changed the origin rules, providing for a 10% (by weight) de minimis threshold to tolerate the presence of content from outside the region, subject to limits on elastomeric content.

Rules of Origin:
The Rules of Origin increases the de minimis threshold from 7% to 10% of FOB adjusted value.

Automotive Developments:
Revised rules of origin for automotive goods require the following (and most provisions phase-in before 2023):

-The USMCA requires a regional (North American) value content of not less than 75%. Automotive parts will also be subject to regional value content requirements of between 65% and 75%.

-At least 70% of an auto producer’s steel and aluminum purchases must be “North America-originating” for that producer’s vehicles to qualify for USMCA duty-free treatment. Auto producers must keep records of steel and aluminum purchases and certify on an annual basis that it is keeping the required records.

=Auto producers must also comply with a new “Labour Value Content” (LVC) provision for their vehicles to qualify for USMCA treatment. The LVC provision requires that workers who earn at least US$16 per hour must carry out 40 to 45% of an auto producer’s activities (i.e., manufacturing, technology, assembly). Auto producers will need to keep records and certify that they meet these requirements.

Section 232:
The USMCA requires the US to give a 60-day notice to Mexico or Canada if the US proposes future section 232 measures. Any new measures would not apply for 60 days and Canada and Mexico can “seek to negotiate an appropriate outcome”.

Intellectual Property (Chapter 20):
Main change requires a minimum of ten years of government-granted marketing exclusivity for biologics. Canada currently provides a term of eight years, whereas the U.S. provides twelve years under the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act (BPCIA) of 2009.

For copyright protection, the USMCA requires that copyright terms last 70 years following the life of the creator for works, and 75 years for performances and sound recordings. Canada’s current copyright terms are “life of the author plus 50 years” and 70 years, respectively.

Another notable provision is on the exclusion of “fair use” exceptions to copyright law. However, Canada is not required to adopt the U.S.-style notice-and-takedown regime for internet service providers.

Anti-Corruption:
USMCA criminalizes supply and demand sides of bribery transactions and facilitation payments.

What’s next?
The USMCA will need to be signed first and then have to be ratified by the respective countries.

If you have any questions how the new USMCA will impact your business or have questions regarding the new country of origin, IP or any other issues in the USMCA, contact David Hsu at 832-896-6288 or by email at dhsu@givensjohnston.com.

$24,000 in unreported currency seized in Massena, NY.

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In late September, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officers at the Massena Port of Entry (in New York just south of the border with Canada) seized approximately $24,000 from a Cambodian citizen entering the US.

According to the CBP media release, the traveler was taken for a secondary examination and re-questioned whether he had any currency to declare. CBP requires all currency and monetary instruments valued at $10,000 or above be declared before leaving or entering the US.

When the traveler replied no, a vehicle inspection discovered the $24,000 of currency in the center console of the car and in the waistband of the traveler. Customs seized the currency and denied admission for the traveler to enter the US.

If you or anyone you know has had their currency seized by customs at any port of entry, contact experienced customs currency and cash seizure attorney David Hsu at 832-896-6288 or by email at dhsu@givensjohnston.com. We can help you regardless of which city, state or country you live – call today.

 

US and Canada working towards NAFTA agreement.

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According to Bloomberg, the US and Canada are working on keeping Nafta an agreement between the US/Mexico and Canada.

Bloomberg quotes Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo as saying the US and Mexico are postponing publishing the text of their two-way trade deal in the event the US and Canada reach an agreement.

 

Canada announces retaliatory tariffs. Link to full list below.

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As has been widely reported on Reuters, NBC, CNN, Dailymail etc., Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the final list of items that will be subject to tariffs  of 10-20% starting July 1st.

The full list can be found here.

The list includes ballpoint pens, inflatable boats, playing cards, sleeping bags, portable stoves, toilet paper, ketchup, pizza, maple syrup etc. Seems like the only people will be the Canadian Boy Scouts! Just kidding, the list includes steel, aluminum, bovine animals; prepared meals etc.

It will be interesting to see whether these tariffs will impact the US surplus with Canada. Since 1985, the US has had a yearly trade surplus with Canada and the new tariffs will impact about 12.5 billion in goods from the US. In 2017, the US held a trade surplus of 25.9 billion dollars.

If you import or export any of the impacted goods and have questions moving forward, contact experienced trade and customs attorney David Hsu at 832.896.6288 or by email at dhsu@givensjohnston.com.

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.

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.

Court of International Trade sides with Canadian textile importer and dismisses Customs $4.5 million penalty claim.

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In a just released decision by the the U.S. Court of International Trade (CIT), the CIT dismissed U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) efforts to collect $4.5 million in penalties against Tricots Liesse 1983, Inc. (Tricots), a Candian textile company importing goods into the US. The full text of the CIT Slip Op. 18-29 can be found here.

In the instant case, Tricots tried to correct NAFTA rules of origin claims by filing a prior disclosure with CBP. CBP issued an administrative penalty and duty demand while not providing Tricots an opporutnity for oral hearings during the administrative proceedings. CBP then filed suit against Tricots in the CIT to collect $4.5 MM in penalties and duties. In response, Tricots filed a motion to dismiss the claims because CBP did not allow Tricots the opportunity to attempt administrative remedies.

In short, the CIT opinion faults CBP for not allowing Tricots a “reasonable opportunity” to make oral representations after issuing the penalty notice. This decision helps future importers by ensuring any importer has the opportunity to receive an administrative hearing before CBP imposes a penalty.

If you have received a penalty notice from Customs and need assistance, contact experienced trade and customs attorney David Hsu at 832-896-6288, or by email at dhsu@givensjohnston.com.