US Treasury Secretary Mnunchin may travel to Beijing for trade talks.

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77th United States Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin

Earlier this week, current US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters he may travel to Beijing for trade negotiations to ease U.S.-China tensions.

In recent weeks both countries have announced tariffs on goods imported from the other country and the tensions between the US and China (the world’s two largest trading partners) has raised concerns of an impending trade war. The US first proposed tariffs totaling $150 billion on Chinese imports and Beijing has proposed tariffs on American goods such as soybeans.

In response, the Ministry of Commerce, People’s Republic of China would “welcome” the move by Treasury Secretary Mnuchin.

More updates as they become available.

EU wants to participate in the US-China steel dispute at the WTO.

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As previously posted on this blog, China requested consultations with the WTO regarding the US import tariffs on steel and aluminum. Requesting a consultation with the WTO is the first stage in the dispute process with the WTO and now the EU asked on April 23rd to join the dispute.

It is important to note that one week from now, President Trump will decide whether these tariffs would apply to imports from the EU. A temporary exemption from the 25% duty on steel and 10% duty on aluminum was granted for the EU until May 1st. Temporary exemptions were also granted to Canada, Mexico, Australia, Argentina and Brazil. South Korean imports have been exempted indefinitely.

In addition to the EU, Hong Kong, Russia, India and Thailand have also filed requests to join the consultations. Check back for more information as it becomes available.

 

Senate Finance Leaders Ask Commerce Secretary to Improve Tariff Exclusion Process.

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Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross

According to the Senate Finance Committee website, Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) urged the U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to implement improvements to the Commerce Department’s process for excluding products from tariffs on steel and aluminum imports under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962.

In short, the letter voices concerns that the process lacks “basic due process and procedural fairness for stakeholders, especially American small businesses” and “appropriate mechanisms to prevent the Section 232 tariffs and product exclusion process from being abused for anticompetitive purposes.”

The Senators write the exclusion request process requires submission of a “substantial amount of information at a minute level of detail” for each imported product and may increase the burden for small businesses. Additionally the Senators state the request and objection forms allow for ambiguity by the Commerce department to approve or deny a product. Lastly, Commerce has not specified how to protect business proprietary information, how to address ex parte communications, how to ensure consistent determination across similar petitioners and objectors.

A full text of the letter can be viewed here (scroll to the bottom, full letter in italics).

If you have any questions about the 232 exclusion process, contact experienced trade attorney David Hsu at 832.896.6288 or by email at dhsu@givensjohnston.com.

ZTE banned from purchasing US technology for 7 years.

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ZTE Corporate Campus in Shenzhen, China; Photo Credit: Brücke-Osteuropa from Wikipedia

On Monday, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) imposed a denial of export privileges against ZTE, composed of Zhongxing Telecommunications Equipment Corporation, of Shenzhen, China (“ZTE Corporation”) and ZTE Kangxun Telecommunications Ltd. of Hi-New Shenzhen, China (“ZTE Kangxun”).

Background

In March of 2017, ZTE agreed to pay civil and criminal penalty and forfeitures totaling $1.19 billion for shipping telecommunications equipment to Iran and North Korea, making false statements, and obstructing justice by preventing disclosure to and misleading the U.S. Government. In 2017, ZTE also agreed to a seven-year denial of export privileges if ZTE committed additional violations.

Commerce found ZTE made several violations such as making false statements to BIS in 2016 and making false statements about disciplinary actions against employees involved in the shipment of equipment to Iran and North Korea.

Result

By activating the seven-year denial of export privileges, ZTE is prohibited from participating in any way in any transaction subject to the EAR. The prohibition also makes it unlawful for businesses and individuals to participate in an export transaction subject to the EAR with a denied person (ZTE).

If you have any questions about how the recent ZTE order may effect your business, or have any other BIS, EAR or export compliance issues – contact experienced trade attorney David Hsu at 832.896.6288 or by email at dhsu@givensjohnston.com.

China files WTO complaint over U.S. tariff actions.

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According to a World Trade Organization (WTO) report, the Chinese have requested a consultation with the United States under the WTO’s Dispute Settlement process about recent US tariff measures on Chinese goods.

Specifically, China claims the tariffs would be above the US bound rates of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). A request for consultation begins the dispute process in the WTO. After a consultation has been requested, the parties have an opportunity to discuss the matter and find a solution without litigation. If a solution is not reached between the two parties after 60 days, China may then request a panel to adjudicate the matter.

For more information, contact trade and customs attorney David Hsu, 832-896-6288, dhsu@givensjohnston.com.

China’s Ministry of Commerce publishes Section 301 Retaliatory Tariff List.

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Yesterday, the People’s Republic of China, Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) issued Announcement 34. Announcement 34 states that the PRC will implement tariffs of 25% on soybeans, various agricultural products, chemicals, automobiles and airplanes, encompassing a total of 106 U.S. products in response to recent tariffs issued by the current administration.

A simplified Chinese-only version of 2018’s Announcement 34 can be found here.

If you have any questions about whether these tariffs will effect your exports to China, contact bilingual and experienced trade and customs attorney David Hsu at 832-896-6288 or by email at dhsu@givensjohnston.com.

US proposes tariffs impacting $50 billion worth of Chinese imports.

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The current administration announced tariffs on an additional 1,300 technological and transport products from China. Imports of these 1,300 goods are worth an an estimated $50 billion and could be subject to an additional 25-percent tariff.

The list posted on US Trade Representative’s (USTR) office covers nonconsumer products, ranging from chemicals to electronic components and excludes some common consumer products such as cellphones and laptops assembled in China. However, the list also includes consumer products such as flat-panel televisions, LED’s, motorcycles and electric cars.

Part of the justification for tariffs is an effort by the administration to cut the trade surplus – in which China has a $375 biillion trade surplus on goods from the US in 2017. Throughout his campaign, President Trump promised reducing the trade surplus by $100 billion during his presidency.

After the proposals were announced, the USTR has a public comment period from now until May 11th. A hearing will follow on May 15th. During this comment period, companies and consumers will be able to ask the government to remove or add certain products to the list.

If you have any question about these potential tariffs or want to know more about how to get your good off the list, contact trade and customs attorney David Hsu at 832.896.6288 or by email at dhsu@givensjohnston.com.

China imposes new tariffs on imports from the United States.

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In response to the U.S. Section 232 tariff measures imposed on steel and aluminum products, China’s Ministry of Commerce announced their intention to impose tariffs on certain products from imported from the United States.

According to an English press release issued by the Ministry of Commerce (full text here), China intends to impose tariffs on 128 products that cover a wide range of items, from food and alcohol to oil and gas pipes.

The tariffs vary from 15% to 25% and a notice of tariffs is available here online for public comment.

A quick look at the list shows these items are subject to the increased tariffs: citrus fruits,
watermelons, dried apples, steel drilled oil and gas drilling pipes with an outside diameter less than 168 mm, cold rolled alloy steel seamless circular cross-section tubes
other fresh or cold pork, frozen pork liver, aluminum scrap, modified ethanol, and American ginseng.

For more information or if you would like to know whether your exported product will be subject to these new duties, contact experienced and bi-lingual English/Chinese Mandarin speaking attorney David Hsu now at 832.896.6288 or by email at dhsu@givensjohnston.com.

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Trump Announces Tariffs on at Least $50 billion in Chinese Goods.

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On March 22nd, President Donald Trump signed a memorandum instructing the U.S. Trade Representative to prepare a list of goods imported from China that will be subject to tariffs.

The tariffs are in response to China’s policies of forced technology transfers, forced joint ventures, intellectual property theft and technology licensing restrictions for U.S. companies doing business in China.

Check back here for the list when it is published. It is is estimated the list will include approximately 1,300 tariff lines and the public will have 30 days to submit comments.

If you have any questions how this may affect your imports, call experienced trade and customs attorney David Hsu at 832-896-6288 or email dhsu@givensjohnston.com.

Bassett Mirror Company to pay $10.5 million for allegations of evading customs duties.

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According to a January 16, 2018 Department of Justice press release – Virginia based home furniture company, Bassett Mirror Company (Bassett) will pay $10.5 million to resolve allegations that Bassett violated the False Claims Act (FCA) by “knowingly making false statements on customs declarations to avoid paying antidumping duties on wooden bedroom furniture imported from the People’s Republic of China (PRC)”.

Wooden bedroom furniture from the People’s Republic Of China is covered under case number: A-570-890 and the scope includes:


The product covered by the order is wooden bedroom furniture. Wooden bedroom furniture is generally, but not exclusively, designed, manufactured, and offered for sale in coordinated groups, or bedrooms, in which all of the individual pieces are of approximately the same style and approximately the same material and/or finish. The subject merchandise is made substantially of wood products, including both solid wood and also engineered wood products made from wood particles, fibers, or other wooden materials such as plywood, oriented strand board, particle board, and fiberboard, with or without wood veneers, wood overlays, or laminates, with or without non-wood components or trim such as metal, marble, leather, glass, plastic, or other resins, and whether or not assembled, completed, or finished.

Since 2004, imports of wooden beddroom furniture from China have been subject to dumping duties and the current PRC rate is 216 percent.

The US Department of Justice alleged that for a five year period (2009 to 2014), Bassett evaded payment of antidumping duties owed by misclassifying the furniture as non-bedroom furniture on import documents. By classifying imports as “non-bedroom furniture”, Bassett avoiding paying the duty rate of 216%.

In general, antidumping duties are imposed against foreign companies for “dumping” products into the US market at prices below cost. Most of the foreign companies are located in “non market economy” countries such as People’s Republic of China and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. By imposing anti dumping duties on goods, the US Department of Commerce is attempting to protect US businesses and “level the playing field” for domestically manufactured products.

Given the current administration in the White House, we can expect the Department of Justice, CBP, and Commerce to further strengthen their enforcement of antidumping duties for any and all goods entering the US.

If you are not sure whether your imports from China are considered “wooden bedroom furniture, or if you have been alleged to violate the false claims act by misclassifying imports, avoiding payment of duties or any other import and export related claim from the US government, contact David Hsu at 832.896.6288 or by email at dhsu@givensjohnston.com immediately. There is no cost for the initial consultation and in most instances, time limits to take action are running – don’t miss your chance, contact us today.