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.

US Customs and Border Protection release FY 2018 enforcement statistics.

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CBP just released their FY2018 enforcement statistics ending this past March. The link to the statistics website is here (opens in new window).

The report includes categories for arrests of individuals with criminal convictions, nationwide arrests by gang affiliation and nationwide drug seizures.

As a point of reference, in FY 2017, agents arrested more than 20,000 criminal aliens and nearly 11,000 individuals who were wanted by law enforcement authorities. Additionally, they seized more than 2.14 million pounds of narcotics, including nearly 1,500 pounds of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids.

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.

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.

Sudan joins the UN’s Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards.

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Credit: Wikipedia 

In October 2017, the US revoked certain sanctions against Sudan and the Sudanese government. These sanctions include those put in place by then-President Clinton (Executive Order 13067) and then-President Bush (Eexecutive Order 13412). However, OFAC sanctions related to the conflict in Darfur: EO 13400, EO 13067.

Following the removal of sanctions, the Sudanese government has made efforts to increase foreign investment – with the Sudanese state minister touring Germany, Bahrain and other countries in December 2017.

In a move to further increase foreign investment to Sudan, on Tuesday, April 3rd, Sudan joined the network of countries that agree to enforce and recognize other nation’s arbitral awards. By joining this network, the Sudanese government hopes to increase confidence of foreign investors – especially in Sudan’s oil and gas sector.

Nations that sign the UN Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awardshe Signatories to the New York Convention agree to recognize arbitration agreements and enforce awards issued in other countries party to the rules. This agreement is viewed as the basis for international arbitration and allows a way for companies to settle commercial disputes.

The removal of 20 years of trade and financial sanctions will allow U.S. citizens and companies to now do business in Sudan, including deals with their government. However, U.S. citizens and companies are still probibited from conducting business with parties on the OFAC list.

If you or your company is planning to invest in Sudan, contact our offices, we can verify compliance with the most recent OFAC list and assist your company in taking all efforts to maintain export compliance – David Hsu, 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.

US Trade Representative (USTR) – 2018 National Trade Estimate Report.

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Last week, the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) released their 2018 National Trade Estimate. The National Trade Estimate (NTE) is an annual report documenting foreign trade and investment hurdles American exports face when conducting business abroad.

The entire 504 page report can be downloaded here.

Fortunately, the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) has made several fact sheets available summarizing major points in these key issues:

2018 Fact Sheet: Key Barriers to Digital Trade

2018 Fact Sheet: Reducing Technical Barriers to Trade

2018 Fact Sheet: USTR Success Stories: Opening Markets for U.S. Agricultural Exports

2018 Fact Sheet: National Trade Estimate Report – Major Developments

For all your legal trade law questions, contact David Hsu, 832.896.6288 or by email at dhsu@givensjohnston.com.

Thailand seeks admission to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP).

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After the TPP was signed earlier in March, Thailand’s government, through the Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, expressed Thailand’s desire to being a member of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

Thailand previously hoped to make progress in negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP, which consists of Japan, China, India, and the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Instead, 11 member nations signed the TPP agreement earlier this month.

The TPP will go into effect 60 days after at least 6 member countries complete the necessary domestic procedures to gain approval of the agreement.

Thailand’s government apparently decided to join the TPP to avoid losing out in multilateral free trade.

US Customs and Border Protection and Mexican Counterparts sign Memo of Understanding.

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Credit: DHS Official Photo/Jetta Disco)

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on March 26, 2018, that U.S. Customs and  U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Kevin McAleenan and the Tax Administration Service (SAT) Chief Osvaldo Santin signed a Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) on customs issues and trade enforcement.

The MOU/MOC included commitments to cooperate on issues such as:

  1. increasing trade and customs compliance;
  2. battling cross-border illicit acitivites;
  3. cargo pre-inspection; and
  4. commitment to work together on unified cargo processing;
  5. collaboration on agriculture safety;
  6. collaboration on agriculture quarantine inspections and;
  7. information sharing.

The official homeland security press release can be found here.

With an ever increasing trade of goods between the US and Mexico, it’s great that CBP and SAT will work together to improve our trade relationship with Mexico.

Importing Kratom? If yes, read this post.

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Kratom (Mitragyna Speciosa) leaves, photo by Manuel Jebauer on Wikipedia

What is Kratom
Kratom is a plant found in Thailand and Malaysia and grown naturally. In the US, Kratom is typically sold in smoke shops as a powder that is used in tea to slow the effects of opioid withdrawal. Kratom is also believed to relieve fatigue, pain, cough and diarrhea. Kratom is sometimes used recreationally for its euphoric effects.

What is the problem with Kratom?
In November of 2017, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cited 36 deaths from consumers who used Kratom to ease their opioid withdraw symptoms. Additionally the FDA said consumption of Kratom also causes risks for abuse, addiction and in some instances death as opiods. As of February 18, 2017, the current Kratom related death count is 44 according to FDA spokesperson Lyndsay Meyer.

Is Kratom safe?
Previous studies of Kratom performed in Asia do not link Kratom in its pure form to  any deaths. It is believed the lack of quality control in the US can lead to the dangerous alterations of Kratom or addition of other drugs.

What about importing Kratom?
Back in November 2017, the FDA issued import alerts to stop the shipments of Kratom from entering the US. After the announcement, hundreds of shipments have already been detained and seized. Even with the import alert, it is estimated that there may be around 340 million packages of Kratom reaching the US each year.

If you have had shipments of Kratom seized by Customs and Border Protection, call experienced seizure attorney, David Hsu at 832.896.6288 or email dhsu@givensjohnston.com.