Court of International Trade Upholds Constitutionality of Trump Steel Tariffs

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As you may know, the Court of International Trade (CIT) has nationwide jurisdiction over customs and international trade laws and the imposition of tariffs.

Back in March 2018, steel importers challeged the constitutionality of Trump’s Section 232 duties on the basis of national security. The steel importers claimed Section 232 gives any President unlimited power to determine executive actions when justified on the basis of national security.

The three-judge panel of the CIT said the Supreme Court’s 1976 decision in Federal Energy Administration v. Algonquin SNG already decided that Section 232 met the “intelligible principle” standard because the scope of the law was limited to issues of national security.

Passenger van or cargo van? That is the question (well, for Ford at least).

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A current case in federal court is attempting to address when or if a passenger van is actually a cargo van.

The case involves Ford Motor Company and their imports of passenger vans that removed a row of seats and sold the vehicles as cargo vans. Cargo vans were levied a duty of 25%, whereas their passenger van counterparts were only taxes 2.5%. Specifically, Ford imported “passenger vans” into the US from Turkey. After they cleared customs, the second row of seats were removed, windows blocked and holes on the floorboard for the seats were covered.

In 2017, the Court of International Trade ruled in Ford’s favor, but the government has appealed and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit heard oral arguments yesterday (Monday 11, 2019). Many are watching the ruling as this may impact what strategies companies implement when “tariff engineering” imports to avoid higher duty amounts.

Tariff engineering and finding alternate classifications under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the US (HTSUS) are common ways importers try to lower their duty amounts.

The Ford argument is the goods should be classified as they are imported and subsequent altering does not matter. However, the government claims Ford’s wording of the vehicle is “for the transport of persons” instead of goods, ie is a cargo van.

Will update as soon as a decision is made.

If you are interested in how your company can “tariff engineer” goods or want to discuss alternative classifications for your goods, contact experienced trade attorney David Hsu at 832-896-6288 or email David’s catchall email: attorney.dave@yahoo.com (will be sent to David’s dh@gjatradelaw.com) email.

US Trade Commission reverses decision, finds the US tire market IS being harmed by truck and bus imports from China.

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Summary of what happened:
On January 30th, the US International Trade Commission (USITC) reversed their earlier decision, finding the US tire market is being harmed by truck and bus imports from China. In short – bus and truck imports from China will now be subject to tariffs. A tariff rate and timeline for imposition of duties was not reported by the USITC.

The USITC released a 62-page determination in response to an order of the U.S. Court of International Trade. Back in November 2018, the USITC remanded the ITC’s decision therefore requiring the ITC to re-evaluate their case.

What caused the reversal?
The five-members of the ITC had changed membership in 2017 when commissioner Scott Kieff left 3 years before the end of his term. President Trump later nominated and the Senate confirmed former President Barack Obama’s nominee to fill the commission – Jason Kearnes.

Jason Kearnes turned out to be the swing vote in the most recent reversal of the ITC decision on bus and truck tires.

Very brief history:
In January 2016, the US Steelworkers filed a complaint that tire imports from China was hurting US industry. After investigating, the ITC voted in February 2017 to NOT impose tariffs. This was a surprise because every other tire investigation led to imposition of duties.The US Steelworkers then appealed the decision to the Court of International Trade and in November 2018, the USITC was forced to re-evaluate their decision. Ultimately in their re-evaluation, the ITC found: “In sum, we find that the significant volume of subject imports, at prices that undersold the domestic like product and depressed domestic prices, adversely impacted the domestic industry. We consequently determine that the domestic industry is materially injured by reason of subject imports.”

Please contact our offices if you have questions on how the most recent ITC decision will effect your company’s imports of bus and truck tries from China. You can call David Hsu at 832-896-6288 at anytime or email attorney.dave@yahoo.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

US Court determines Thanksgiving and Christmas dinnerware is not eligible for duty-free entry into the US.

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In an interesting case, the U.S. Court of Appeals agreed with the Court of International Trade’s argument that dinnerware decorated with “festive motifs” and frequently used during Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner do not qualify for duty-free treatment because the articles are not “for use in specific religious or cultural ritual celebrations”.

The importer’s dinnerware included holiday designs such as Christmas trees, turkeys, wreaths etc. intended for using during a traditional Thanksgiving or Christmas meal. The importer initially claimed the dinnerware was duty-free under HTSUS 9817.95.01 “Certain Festive Articles”. The importer said the Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners were specific cultural celebrations and the dinnerware was part of the performance of these celebrations. The CIT claimed, and the US Court of Appeals agreed, that while Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner were cultural celebrations, they however were not specific rituals as required under the HTSUS code.

 

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 attorney.dave@yahoo.com.