Got bugs? CBP vigorously checking ports and looking at wood packaging materials – did you receive an EAN?

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If you are importing anything into the Port of Houston (or any sea port) please be advised CBP is increasing scrutiny of cargo and solid wood packing materials for pests.

Last November, Customs changed the penalty provisions for violations of shipments that do not comply with wood packaging material regulations. Wood packaging materials (WPM) are required to meet the “Guidelines for Regulating Wood Packaging Material in International Trade”. The PDF of the regulations can be found here (last accessed July 13, 2018).

What is Wood Packaging Materials (WPM)?

-Hardwood or softwood packaging
-Created using glue, heat, pressure, or a combination of all three
-Used to support, protect or carry an item
-Examples include pallets, skids, containers and crates.

In other words, the definition is very broad – call our office if you want to verify your materials are considered “wood” packaging materials.

WPM violations include:

(1) markings not approved by the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC);
(2) WPM not stamped in accordance with the ISPM 15 standard;
(3) WPM that is infested.

If there are any WPM violations, Customs will send you an Emergency Action Notification (EAN) and in most cases Customs will ask you to export the violating items.

If you receive an EAN for any WPM violations, contact customs attorney David Hsu at 832-896-6288 or by email at dhsu@givensjohnston.com.

Any Customs case involve pests or WPM are time sensitive and you have to act fast – do not hesitate to contact our office.

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

white bed comforter

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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.

Trump administration considering new tariffs on imported vehicles.

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Reuters reports the Trump administration may consider imposing new tariffs on imported vehicles based under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962.

A little bit of background – a section 232 investigation is conducted under the authority of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, as amended and the purpose of a 232 investigation is to determine the effect of imports on the national security. Investigations may be initiated based on an application from an interested party, a request from the head of any department or agency, or may be self-initiated by the Secretary of Commerce.

Reuters reports the administration is currently considering tariffs of up to 25 percent for imported vehicles. As this was just announced, the plan is still not yet implemented and will receive much feedback from interest groups, foreign trading partners, domestic dealers of importer cars and anyone else involved in the import car business.

Check back for the latest news. If you have any questions about the current steel and aluminum tariffs initiated under section 232, contact experienced trade attorney – David Hsu at 832-896-6288 or by email at dhsu@givensjohnston.com.

CBP seizes prohibited ivory products in Seattle.

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CBP agriculture specialists at Sea-Tac
found ivory in the luggage of a couple
arriving from the Philippines on May 11. Photo Credit: CBP

According to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection media release dated May 22nd, Agriculture Specialists at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport discovered a variety of prohibited ivory products (carved tusks) in the luggage of a husband and wife who arrived on a flight from the Philippines on May 11.

An x-ray and search of the traveler’s belongings revealed 34 pieces of carved elephant ivory, two carved hippopotamus tusks and two carved warthog tusks. The agriculture specialists contacted inspectors from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who inspected and seized the items. The couple also received a $500 fine for transporting the items in violation of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).

If you or anyone you know has had a CBP seizure, contact experienced trade attorney, David Hsu at 832-896-6288 or by email at dhsu@givensjohnston.com.

Colorado woman fined $500 by Customs for not declaring an apple.

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As has widely been reported, Colorado resident Crystal Tadlock was catching a connecting flight in Minnesota back to Colorado from a trip to France when CBP in Minnesota stopped her and fined her for not declaring an apple. At the time, CBP indicated they would fine her $500 for failure to declare the apple. Crystal claims she packed the apple (served as part of the in-flight meal service) in her carry-on and forgot about it until she was clearing Customs.

Customs has discretion to fine up to a $1,000 penalty for first time offenses of bringing in prohibited agricultural products and Crystal will likely receive a notice in her mail in about 30 days. Not sure if Crystal is a frequent traveler, however the other consequence of this seizure will be the loss of Global Entry Status.

If you or someone you know has had a Customs seizure and you have received a penalty notice from Customs – call experienced Customs attorney David Hsu for immediate help – 832.896.6288 or by email at dhsu@givensjohnston.com.

Renegotiated KORUS FTA results in changes more favorable to US companies.

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According to the Office of the United States Trade Representative website, the Trump administration has negotiated additional favorable terms of the United States – Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) that went into effect in 2012.

Fulfilling part of his campaign promises, President Trump has re-negotiated the KORUS with these (and many more) favorable changes to US companies:

1. Korea will double the number of US automobile exports to 50,000 cars per manufacturer per year.

2. US automobile exports to Korea that meet US safety standards can enter the Korean market without further modification. This lowers the cost of US cars being sold in Korea as additional testing and modifications are not needed before the US cars are sold in the marketplace.

3. Korea will recognize US standards for auto parts to service US vehicles in Korea, this reduces the labeling burden for US parts manufacturers.

4. Korea will amend their Premium Pricing Policy for Global Innovative Drugs to ensure non-discriminatory and fair treatment for US pharamceutical exports.

5. Korea imports of steel products into the US will be subject to a product-specific quota equal to 70% for the average annual import volume of such products during the years 2015-2017, resulting in reduction of Korean steel shipments to the US.

If you have any questions regarding the KORUS or other trade and customs law issues, feel free to contact David Hsu at 832.896.6288 or by email at dhsu@givensjohnston.com.

South Korea allows for increases on US auto imports in exchange for U.S. Steel tariff exemption.

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According to Reuters, the US and South Korea agreed on Monday (March 27th, 2018) to revise the KORUS bilateral free trade deal. As part of the deal, South Korea would improve access to U.S. automakers and in exchange the US would exempt Korean steel from the new Section 232 duty rates.

President Trump has always claimed the current KORUS agreement was “horrible” and lead to a doubling of the U.S. goods trade deficit with South Korea since 2012. While the terms have not yet been announced, the agreement likely makes South Korea is the first US ally to receive an indefinite exemption but still subject to quotas.

In addition to South Korea, Trump has temporarily excluded other major US trading partners Canada, Mexico, Australia and the European Union from higher U.S. import duties on steel and aluminium.

Check back for the latest news and as always, please contact David Hsu at 832.896.6288 or dhsu@givensjohnston.com for all your trade and international law questions.

Section 232 – Duties do not apply to goods coming from these countries until May 1, 2018.

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Until May 1, 2018, the Section 232 duties do not apply to goods coming from:

• Argentina;

• Australia;

• Brazil;

• Canada;

• Mexico;

• the member countries of the European Union; and

• South Korea.

After that time, the President will review whether to continue exempting these countries from the order.

Furthermore, the most recent customs message also says that admissions into FTZs can only be made with a privileged foreign status, which closes the previous FTZ loophole.

Any Section 232 questions? Call experienced trade and customs attorney David Hsu at 832.896.6288, or by email at dhsu@givensjohnston.com.

Cargo Systems Messaging Service – Additional Duties on Imports of Steel and Aluminum under Section 232 – March 22, 2018.

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U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released Cargo Systems Messaging Service Number 18-000240 with additional information regarding the imports of steel and aluminum under Section 232.

If you have any questions regarding this, please contact David Hsu at 832.896.6288 or by email at dhsu@givensjohnston.com.

CSMS #18-000240

Title:
Additional Duty on Imports of Steel and Aluminum Articles under Section 232 Date: 3/22/2018 11:39:25 PM To: Automated Broker Interface, ACE Portal Accounts, ACE Reports, Air Manifest, New ACE Programming, Ocean Manifest, Partner Government Agencies, Rail Manifest, Trade Policy Updates, Truck Manifest  Additional Duty on Imports of Steel and Aluminum Articles under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962

BACKGROUND:
On March 8, 2018, the President issued Proclamations 9704 and 9705 on Adjusting Imports of Steel and Aluminum into the United States, under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, as amended (19 U.S.C. 1862), providing for additional import duties for steel mill and aluminum articles, effective March 23, 2018.  See the Federal Register, 83 FR 11619 and 83 FR 11625, March 15, 2018.  On March 22, 2018, the President issued Proclamations on Adjusting Imports of Steel and Aluminum into the United States.

These duty requirements are effective with respect to goods entered, or withdrawn from warehouse for consumption, on or after 12:01 a.m. eastern daylight time on March 23, 2018.

COMMODITY:
Steel mill and aluminum articles, as specified in the Presidential Proclamations.

COUNTRIES COVERED:
March 23, 2018 through April 30, 2018:  All countries of origin except Canada, Mexico, Australia, Argentina, South Korea, Brazil and  member countries of the European Union (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom).

As of May 1, 2018:  All countries of origin.

Please note this is based on the country of origin, not the country of export.

ENTRY SUMMARY FILING INSTRUCTIONS:
Steel Products In addition to reporting the regular Chapters 72 & 73 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) classification for the imported merchandise, importers shall report the following HTS classification for imported merchandise subject to the additional duty:9903.80.01 (25 percent ad valorem additional duty for steel mill products) Aluminum Products In addition to reporting the regular Chapter 76 of the HTS classification for the imported merchandise, importers shall report the following HTS classification for imported merchandise subject to the additional duty: 9903.85.01 (10 percent ad valorem additional duty for aluminum products)

Importers and filers failing to submit the required Chapter 99 HTS classifications with the entry summary information for imports under the specified Chapter 72, 73, and 76

HTS classifications for the covered countries of origin will receive the following reject messages:

E1 IQ10    LINE SUBJECT TO QUOTA

E1 FQ09   QUOTA NOT ALLOWED FOR ENTRY TYPE

E1 FQ05   BANNED IMPORT

E1 RF998 TRANSACTION DATA REJECTED

Note:  Quota is not in effect, but this ACE functionality is being used to validate entry summary transmissions and reject when validations determine the data is missing the required chapter 99 number.

Importers or filers receiving one of the reject messages above, who have researched their classification and dates to confirm the entry summaries were incorrectly rejected, should contact their assigned Client Representative with the results of their review.

Additional Information
Any steel or aluminum article subject to the Section 232 duties that is admitted into U.S. foreign trade zones on or after 12:01 a.m. eastern daylight time on March 23, 2018, must be admitted as “privileged foreign status” as defined in 19 CFR 146.41, and will be subject upon entry for consumption to any ad valorem rates of duty related to the classification under the applicable HTSUS subheading.

Any steel or aluminum article that was admitted into U.S. foreign trade zones under “privileged foreign status” as defined in 19 CFR 146.41, prior to 12:01 a.m. eastern daylight time on March 23, 2018, will likewise be subject upon entry for consumption to any ad valorem rates of duty related to the classification under applicable HTSUS subheadings imposed by the Proclamations.

The merchandise covered by the additional duties may also be subject to antidumping and countervailing duties.

CBP will issue additional guidance on entry requirements for any products excluded from these measures, as soon as information is available.  CBP will also issue updated guidance if there are any changes to these measures, including any changes to exempted countries and any new requirements, such as quota requirements.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION:For more information, please refer to the Presidential Proclamations on Adjusting Imports of Steel and Aluminum into the United States, Federal Register, 83 FR 11619 and 83 FR 11625, March 15, 2018; and the March 22, 2018 Presidential Proclamations on Adjusting Imports of Steel and Aluminum into the United States.

Questions related to Section 232 entry filing requirements should be emailed to adcvdissues-hq@cbp.dhs.gov.

Questions from the importing community concerning ACE rejections should be referred to their Client Representative.

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.