The table below provides a summary of recent import and export developments announced by the U.S. federal government agencies shown below (as of March 27, 2020). New information is shown below in red, and additional updates will be provided as new announcements are made.
Recent Import Developments
|International Trade Commission
|ITC to Issue Report Identifying Imported Products Needed for COVID-19 Response and Related Tariff and Trade Information||At the request of the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee, the ITC has commenced an investigation to identify imported products necessary for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as their associated tariff classifications, countries of origin and applicable duty rates—these committees requested that ITC provide a report detailing this information in order to assist the USTR and Congress in considering and taking responsive actions, which could include modifying tariffs on such goods. The ITC is expected to issue its report at the end of April.|
|ITC||ITC Response to COVID-19||Since March 17, 2020, all ITC employees have been working remotely, and may be contacted via telephone and email as usual. Changes to Antidumping/Countervailing (AD/CVD) Duty Conference and Hearing Procedures, as well as procedures relating to Section 337 Investigations and AD/CVD investigations were announced in the Federal Register notices published on March 19th and April 10th. Specifically—
|Customs & Border Protection (CBP)
|International Donations Accepted by FEMA
|In CSMS #42320854 (April 9, 2020), CBP provided guidance on imports of international donations accepted by FEMA via the International Assistance System (IAS) Concept of Operations (CONOPS). The IAS process only applies to government-to-government assistance (i.e., nation-state to nation-state assistance), and the shipments must be accepted by the US government through the State Department. Upon the arrival of goods at US ports, a cargo manifest must be provided by the arriving carrier—CBP will screen the shipment for high-risk factors. Formal entry will not be required, and the goods may be released off the manifest. Any merchandise that does not meet the above criteria can still be entered under established entry procedures.|
|CBP||Charitable Organization Imports||In CSMS #42320854 (April 9, 2020), CBP provided guidance on products imported by US charities or other private entities to assist with relief efforts in response to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic. CBP will not remit the duty on goods imported for disaster relief by a private group or individual under 19 USC 1322(b) unless the recipient is a recognized tax-exempt charitable organizations. Private groups and individuals must provide a letter from the receiving charity (on the charity’s letterhead with its IRS number) stating that it is willing to accept the imported goods and that it intends to donate the goods. Shipments that satisfy these criteria do not require formal entry and may be released off the manifest. CBP may verify an organization’s tax-exempt status on the IRS list website. Any merchandise that does not meet the above criteria can still be entered under established entry procedures.|
|USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)
|Veterinary Health Certificates||For shipments arriving between April 8th and May 16th, APHIS announced that CBP may accept all import documents uploaded to CBP’s Document Image System for regulated animal products and byproducts regardless of the disease status of the exporting country-this includes veterinary health certificates and supporting documents for veterinary import permit requirements. However, APHIS will continue to require original hardcopy veterinary health certificates for high-risk products (i.e., fetal bovine serum, newborn calf serum, calf serum, donor bovine serum, and adult bovine serum from all countries, fresh and/or frozen meat and poultry from all countries). Shipments arriving without veterinary health certificates will be refused entry or held until the required documents are provided.|
|APHIS||Fruit from New Zealand
|APHIS has temporarily suspended the preclearance program for apples and pears from New Zealand. Although APHIS is unable to send preclearance inspectors to New Zealand due to COVID-19 travel restrictions and safety concerns, imports of apples and pears from New Zealand will be allowed to continue subject to existing U.S. requirements (i.e., preclearance will not be required if shipments undergo required inspection on arrival and meet all general requirements of 7 CFR 319.56-3, including pest mitigation restrictions and treatments ordered by the port of entry inspector).|
|CBP||CBP No Longer Accepting Requests to Defer Duties:||In CSMS #42161666, U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced that it will no longer accept requests from importers to defer payments of customs duties, and that payments of previously deferred duties (that should have been tendered between March 20th – 26th) must be “initiated” by March 27th via FedWire or ACH credit. This marks an about-face in the duty deferral policy that CBP announced as recently as last week, in which it stated it would approve requests to defer duties as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic on a case-by-case basis. Several industry associations (e.g., National Customs Brokers & Forwarders Association of America, American Association of Exporters and Importers, etc.) are urging members of Congress and the Administration to defer the collection of duties. On March 25th, Senate Finance Chairman Grassley sent a letter to the President with recommendations on the trade measures that should be taken to respond to COVID-19, including deferral of duty collection, expanding and extending product exclusions under Section 301, and providing tariff relief for pharmaceuticals and medical devices.|
|CBP||Importers Should Provide Advanced Notification of Pandemic Relief Materials to CBP:||CBP’s New York Field Office released a memo on March 24th (Informational Pipeline 20-001-NYFO) stating that CBP is facing an increase in the number of shipment claiming to be for pandemic relief effort—some of those shipments have been proven to be legitimate, while others are “being imported by those who seek to profit off vulnerable segments of our population.” In order to expedite legitimate shipments of relief materials, CBP requests that importers provide advance notification to CBP when they are expecting shipments of pandemic relief materials such as pharmaceutical products, personal protective equipment, building supplies, and other related items that have already arrived and are pending release or on hold, as well as those that will be arriving by air or ocean. Importers should contact the Assistant Port Director, Trade’s staff at (718) 487-5172 for shipments arriving at JFK Airport. For shipments arriving at the Port of New York/Newark, the Problem Resolution Unit can be reached at NY-NWKPROBRES@CBP.DHS.GOV or (973)368-6167.|
|CBP||Requests for Binding CBP Rulings:||CBP announced that the National Commodity Specialist Division continues to accept binding ruling requests; however, requests submitted in hardcopy and the submission of physical samples will likely result in processing delays. Therefore, importers preparing to submit requests are urged to utilize the online e-Ruling Template and submit color photographs in lieu of paper submissions and physical samples.|
|CBP||10-Day Extension for Termination/Replacement of Customs Bonds:||In CSMS #60152, CBP announced that it will grant a 10-day extension for the termination and replacement of insufficient customs bonds for which notices were issued with a deadline of March 21, 2020. Accordingly these bonds should be scheduled for termination by March 31st with a termination date of no later than April 15, 2020. CBP noted that it is operating under normal procedures and can complete processing and reviews in a timely manner—therefore, the April bond sufficiency reviews and notices will not be postponed.|
|US Trade Representative (USTR)||Request for Public Comments on Removal of Section 301 Tariffs from Medical-Care Products:||On March 25th, USTR published in the Federal Register a request for comments on a possible action to remove Section 301 tariffs from certain medical-care products imported from China into the United States in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. See 85 Federal Register 16987 (March 25, 2020). Comments must be submitted on or before June 25, 2020. USTR will review the comments on a rolling basis. Importers wishing to submit comments must submit the following information to USTR via the online portal at https://regulations.gov using Docket Number USTR-2020-0014: (a) detailed description of the product (including ten-digit HTSUS classification, dimensions, material composition, etc.); (b) how the product relates to the response to the COVID-19 outbreak; (c) whether the product can be used used to treat COVID-19 or to limit the outbreak, and/or whether the product is used in the production of needed medical-care products; and, (d) information about the producer, importer, ultimate consumer, trademarks or tradenames, etc.|
|USTR||New Section 301 Product Exclusions for Certain Medical Supplies:||On USTR rolled out new product exclusions from the Section 301 tariffs for certain medical supplies on March 10th, March 16th, and March 17th. See 87 Federal Register 13970; 85 Federal Register 15015; and, 85 Federal Register 15254. Importers of medical-related products are urged to review the Federal Register notices that identify the product exclusions that have been approved by USTR to assess whether they apply to their products. Importers that confirm that their products qualify for particular product exclusions can utilize them for future imports and seek duty refunds from CBP on previous entries even if they did not submit the exclusion requests to USTR. To qualify for a product exclusion, the merchandise must satisfy both the narrative description of the product as well as the specified HTSUS tariff classification.|
|FDA||Instructions for Submission of Entry Information for Personal Protective Equipment and Other Devices:
|The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued instructions to importers regarding the submission of entry information for personal protective equipment and other devices to facilitate the import process to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
Questions relating to FDA’s instructions, product codes, or specific entry issues can be submitted to FDA at COVID19FDA9MPORTINQUIRIES@fda.hhs.gov or via telephone at 301-796-0356.
|APHIS||Acceptance of Electronic Documents to Facilitate Import and Export Clearance||The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced that it will accept electronically produced phytosanitary certificates to facilitate the clearance of imported plants and plant products during the COVID-19 pandemic. Electronic documents may be uploaded to the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) using the Document Imaging System or provide them in email attachments. APHIS will also allow precleared consignments to be accompanied by an email from APHIS Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) with an electronic copy of PPQ Form 203 attached if the original form is not available. Import or export-related questions may be addressed with APHIS as follows:|
Recent Export Developments
|Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC)||Longer Processing Times for Commodity Jurisdiction Requests and ITAR License/Agreement Applications:||The State Department’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) announced that export license applications requested under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), as well as commodity jurisdiction requests and general correspondences, are still being accepted by the agency but will experience longer processing times.|
|DDTC||ITAR Registration Applications and Renewals:
|New and renewal ITAR registration requests are still being accepted by the DDTC via the DECCS, and are being processed as they are submitted.|
|DDTC||New Process for Submitting ITAR Voluntary Disclosures to DTCC:||Companies preparing voluntary disclosures of ITAR violations are encouraged to submit them in PF format via email to DTCC-CaseStatus@state.gov in lieu of hardcopy submissions. Disclosures should be made on company letterhead, and duplicate hardcopy submissions are not required to be submitted.|
|Census Bureau||New Process for Submitting Voluntary Self-Disclosures and Data Requests to the Census Bureau:||Companies preparing voluntary self-disclosure of Foreign Trade Regulations violations (i.e., Automated Export System violations) are asked to submit them electronically to the Census Bureau’s Trade Regulations Branch to firstname.lastname@example.org in password-protected filed. Requests for data should also be submitted electronically to the Data User & Trade Outreach Branch to email@example.com. These submissions may also be submitted via fax (301-763-8835).|
|Bureau of Industry & Security (BIS)
|Export Control Forum Canceled:||The BIS has not yet published information on the effects of COVID-19 on its operations; however, the BIS canceled the export control forum slated for April 2020.|
If you have any questions relating to the current operational status of U.S. trade agencies as a result of COVID-19, or other international trade-related issues, please contact Melissa Proctor (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Peggy Chaplin Louie (email@example.com) at Miller Proctor Law PLLC (https://millerproctorlaw.com ).