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

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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.

Section 301 Duties to be announced by June 15, 2018.

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According to a Whitehouse.gov statement released today (May 29, 2018) titled: “Statement on Steps to Protect Domestic Technology and Intellectual Property from China’s Discriminatory and Burdensome Trade Practices” found here, the US will impose a 25% tariff on $50 billion of goods imported from China “containing industrially significant technology, including those related to the “Made in China 2025” program.  The final list of covered imports will be announced by June 15, 2018, and tariffs will be imposed on those imports shortly thereafter.

What is the “Made in China 2025” Program?
Made in China 2025 (Chinese: 中国制造2025) is a plan issued by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in May 2015 to make China more self-sufficient and a manufacturing superpower in high-tech industries. An English version of the initiative can be found here.

What is Section 301?
Section 301 of the U.S. Trade Act of 1974, authorizes the President to take all appropriate action, including retaliation, to obtain the removal of any act, policy, or practice of a foreign government that violates an international trade agreement or is unjustified, unreasonable, or discriminatory, and that burdens or restricts U.S. commerce.

Section 301 is worded in general terms and allows for broad discretion from the President.

What are other points mentioned in the press release?

  1. There will also be other restrictions and increased export controls for Chinese persons and entities and will be announced on June 30, 2018.
  2. The US will continue litigating in the WTO for violations of intellectual property against China related to licensing of intellectual property. The US filed the case with the TWO on March 23, 2018.

Check back here on June 15, 2018 for the final list and tariff amounts to be imposed on the goods from China. If you have any questions how these Section 301 tariffs will impact your business, contact David Hsu at 832-896-6288 or by email at dhsu@givensjohnston.com.

Trump delays decision on steel and aluminium tariffs.

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A little background – back in March 2018, President Trump imposed worldwide tariffs of 25% on imports of steel and 10% on aluminum. Countries such as Canada, Mexico and the European Union were temporarily exempted from these tariffs.

Later in April, the US gave South Korea a permanent exemption from these tariffs in exchange for a 30% reduction of SK exports of steel to the United States.

One country not exempted was China, and as posted previously on this blog, China retaliated with their own duties on many US imports to the middle kingdom.

Fast forward to May 1st and the current administration has extended negotiations on steel and aluminium tariffs for an additional 30 days with Canada, Mexico and the European Union. Tentative agreements have been reached with Argentina, Brazil and Australia.

Check back here for more details as they become available.

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.