News & Insights

Friday, October 30, 2020

Summary of Recent Customs Legislative & Regulatory Developments

The following provides a snapshot of recent legislative and regulatory developments impacting imports into the United States in case you happened to miss these key news items:

CBP Proposes Formal Continuing Education Requirement for Licensed Customs BrokersCBP issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on October 28, 2020, regarding a new continuing education requirement for licensed customs brokers. Under the proposed rule, brokers would be required to complete forty (40) hours of continuing education over the course of three (3) years. Credit may be obtained for attending corporate training, training provided by broker associations, online webinars provided by CBP, relevant training provided by other U.S. federal government agencies, national customs broker association meetings and conferences, and meetings with CBP ports. CBP may impose disciplinary measures against brokers who fail to complete the training, such as the issuance of warning letters, the suspension of licenses, and even the revocation of licenses.
Termination of Section 232 Tariffs on Aluminum Products from CanadaOn October 27, 2020, the Trump Administration issued a Proclamation formally terminating the Section 232 tariffs on aluminum products from Canada with retroactive effect to September 1, 2020.
CBP Issues General Notice of Forced Labor Findings on Certain Imports of Stevia into the United StatesOn October 20, 2020, CBP published a General Notice of Forced Labor Findings in the Federal Register relating to imports of stevia extracts and derivatives into the United States from the Inner Mongolia Hengzheng Group Baoanzhao Agriculture, Industry and Trade Co., Ltd in China. A Withhold Release Order had been issued by CBP against the supplier in 2016. A Forced Labor Finding reflects that CBP obtained conclusive evidence of forced labor. CBP is authorized to detain shipments from suppliers subject to Forced Labor Findings, and importers must submit proof of admissibility demonstrating that the goods were not produced with forced labor in order to secure the goods’ release. Absent the proof of admissibility, CBP will formally seize the merchandise. This Forced Labor Finding applies to goods imported on or after October 20th, including those that were entered but not yet released by CBP on that date. See 85 Federal Register 66574 (October 20, 2020) for further details.
ITC Launches Section 337 Investigation on Smart TV and Downstream ProductsThe International Trade Commission (ITC) announced on October 14, 2020 that it has launched a Section 337 investigation into imports of video processing equipment, components, smart digital TVs and downstream products from LG, Samsung, TTE, MediaTek, Realtek and TCL into the United States as they may infringe patents owned by DivX. DivX, a US company headquartered in San Diego, California, submitted a Section 337 Petition in September requesting that the ITC issue exclusion orders and prohibitions on imports of the products into the United States.

Trump Administration Issues Memorandum Targeting Imports of Counterfeit Merchandise through

E-Commerce Platforms

On October 13, 2020, the Trump Administration issued a Memorandum to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) noting that E-commerce platforms serve as key contributors to counterfeit trafficking by acting as intermediaries and providing marketplaces that match up buyers and sellers, and that it is US policy to protect consumers and IPR holders from counterfeit goods. The Memorandum directs CBP to consider: (a) seizing counterfeit goods imported into the United States in connection with a transaction on an e-commerce platform; and, (b) imposing the maximum fines and civil penalties permitted by law on any e-commerce platform that directs, assists with, or is in any way concerned in the importation into the United States of counterfeit goods. In addition, within 120 days, the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Attorney General must develop a legislative proposal to promote the policy objectives of the Memorandum.
Renewal of the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBTPA)On October 10, 2020, President Trump signed a bill that extended the preferential tariff benefits of the CBTPA for ten (10) years. The CBPTA, which expired on October 1st, provides duty-free treatment on imports of certain footwear, apparel, tuna, leather and travel goods, watches, watch parts and other items from Barbados, Belize, Curacao, Guyana, Haiti Jamaica, St. Lucia, and Trinidad and Tobago. On October 15, 2020, CBP issued CSMS Message #44437979 instructing importers to file Post Summary Corrections (PSCs) for refunds of duties paid on goods that were eligible for preferential tariff benefits under the CBTPA while the program was in lapse.
ITC Launches Section 301 Investigation on Imports from VietnamOn October 2, 2020, the US Trade Representative (USTR) announced the commencement of a Section 301 investigation on imports from Vietnam and currency manipulation that may be harming U.S. industry. According to the ITC’s notice, evidence suggests that a significant portion of the imported timber used in wooden furniture exported by Vietnam was illegally harvested or traded. Specifically, Cambodian timber, illegally harvested in wildlife sanctuaries, was used in the production of the wooden furniture, as well as illegally harvested wood from Cameroon and Congo. With respect to currency manipulation, U.S. data indicates that the dong was undervalued in 2017, 2018 and 2019. Public comments may be submitted by interested parties by November 12, 2020.
Senators Call on USTR to Begin Negotiating a Comprehensive Trade Agreement with TaiwanOn October 1, 2020, a group of senators issued a letter to the USTR requesting that the Trump Administration began negotiating a comprehensive trade agreement with Taiwan. The letter noted that Taiwan is the United States’ 11th largest trading partner in terms of goods and services, and supports an estimated 208,000 American jobs.
Labor Department Adds 6 New Goods to Forced Labor ListOn October 1, 2020, the US Department of Labor published an Announcement updating its list of goods (and their associated countries of origin) that are believed to be produced by child or forced labor in violation of international standards. The notice added six (6) new goods to the list as follows: gloves; rubber gloves; hair products; pome and stone fruits; sandstone; and, tomato products. See 85 Federal Register 62325 (October 1, 2020) for further details.
President Trump Issues Executive Order on U.S. Reliance on Imported Rare Earth Minerals from Foreign AdversariesOn September 30, 2020, President Trump issued an Executive Order requiring the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Treasury and the Interior to investigate the United States’ reliance on critical minerals from foreign adversaries and to give recommendations, within 60 days,  as to whether additional tariffs or quotas should be imposed on imports of Chinese-origin rare earth minerals into the United States. The Executive Order also gave the agencies have 30 days in which to identify all legal authorities and appropriations that can be used to establish domestic supplies of these materials.