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USTR Suspends Trade Engagement with Burma


USTR Suspends Trade Engagement with Burma

On March 29th, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (“USTR”) announced the suspension of all U.S. engagements with Burma (Myanmar) under the 2013 Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (“TIFA”), effective immediately. Pursuant to this announcement, the United States will be suspending all government-to-government meetings following the military coup that occurred in February and the related escalation in violence by Burma’s military against its people. As a result of the announcement, U.S. federal agencies, including the Office of the United States Trade Representative and U.S. Customs Border Protection (“CBP”), will not be allowed to meet with their counterparts or other government officials in Burma to discuss trade or other issues until a democratic government is re-established.

Significantly, the suspension does not mean the United States is banning or prohibiting imports from Burma. However, we caution that the U.S. has placed sanctions through the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) on a number of Burmese Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs) that prohibit business with these SDNs as well as entities meeting certain ownership interests with the SDNs.

Also, as the importing community is aware, the Generalized System of Preferences (“GSP”) lapsed on December 31, 2020. We expect that Congress will pick up GSP renewal later this year. Nevertheless, if/when the GSP gets renewed, Burma may be excluded (again) due to ongoing labor concerns.  If the current military regime is in place when the renewal is under consideration, then we would expect that Burma will be excluded from receiving GSP benefits.

We further believe that it would be prudent for importers to carefully review supply chains involving Burma for labor issues. As companies are aware, CBP has been more active in issuing Withhold Release Orders and this has continued into the Biden Administration with the recent forced labor finding on disposable gloves from Malaysia. For any company relying on goods from Burma, we recommend auditing the supply chain for labor issues and documenting the results.


Robert Stang is a Washington, D.C.-based partner with the law firm Husch Blackwell LLP. He leads the firm’s Customs group.

supply chains

Biden Issues Executive Order to Review Critical Supply Chains

President Biden issued an “Executive Order on America’s Supply Chains” (the “EO”) on February 24, 2021, ordering 100-day and 1-year reviews of certain critical supply chains.

The initial 100-day review aims to assess risks posed to the following critical supply chains:

-Semiconductor manufacturing and advanced packaging

-High-capacity batteries, including electric vehicle batteries

-Critical minerals, including rare earth elements

-Pharmaceuticals and active pharmaceutical ingredients

The EO also orders supply chain reviews of six (6) sectors with reports due within one year. The sectoral assessments will cover:


-Public health and biological preparedness

-Information and communication technology




The EO leaves open the possibility that other industrial bases may be assessed as part of the one-year review and that digital networks, services, assets, and data (“digital products”), goods, services, and materials not otherwise described in the EO that span more than one sector may be assessed.

The EO directs that both the 100-day and 1-year reports shall review “critical goods and materials,” “other essential goods and materials,” manufacturing and production capabilities of such critical or essential goods and materials, supply chains’ resiliency, and all the major risks to the supply chains. The EO imagines the term “risks” broadly. Risks include physical threats such as climate and other natural events, as well as geopolitical dynamics. Risks also comprise digital products’ inclusion in supply chains and the possibility that such digital products could be exploited. Additionally, the EO directs that the risk of human-rights or forced-labor abuses along the supply chains be described.

The EO arrives as shortages or anticipated shortages of semiconductors are widely reported, especially in the automobile industry. A general policy goal of the Biden Administration is to increase domestic manufacturing capability and economic growth, particularly in communities of color and economically distressed areas. The EO could be the first step in a significant reimagining of how the U.S. incorporates civilian and defense supply chains into its national and economic security and foreign policy strategies. At this time, however, the Administration has only ordered reviews. Interested companies should anticipate and consult the relevant Secretaries’ 100-day and 1-year reports for forthcoming policy suggestions.


Tony Busch is an attorney in Husch Blackwell LLP’s Washington, D.C. office.

Cortney O’Toole Morgan is a Washington D.C.-based partner with the law firm Husch Blackwell LLP. She leads the firm’s International Trade & Supply Chain group.

Camron Greer is an Assistant Trade Analyst in Husch Blackwell LLP’s Washington D.C. office.



As we all saw throughout the 2020 elections, Americans and those around the world anxiously awaited the results while international and domestic trade players planned for anticipated policy and regulatory changes to come in the short and long terms. For now, some things are here to stay. Flexibility is a must for maintaining the current trends within the international trade atmosphere. Trade relations with China and Vietnam as well as new tariffs on the horizon remain critical questions. 

The next four years will undoubtedly require careful strategic planning with an emphasis on digital innovation for trade policy experts as COVID-19 continues to add an additional layer of complexity to operations while adjusting to a new administration and policy changes. 

To help you navigate the future, Global Trade talked with Washington, D.C.-based law firm Miller & Chevalier’s international trade experts Richard Mojica and Dana Watts. They weigh in on the 2020 election outcome, how international and domestic trade lane shifts can be anticipated and what traders can do to prepare now for the near future. 

“President Biden will likely continue a trade policy of protectionism,” Mojica says. “Biden’s approach would be more subtle than Trump’s, but his trade policy agenda is centered around the familiar themes of taking a hard line on China and boosting U.S. industries by increasing government purchases of U.S.-based goods and services. Further, although Biden would certainly seek to restore trade relations with long-time allies, he has signaled that his administration would focus on domestic investments before pursuing any new trade agreements. That probably includes not pursuing Phase II of the U.S.-China Agreement, in part due to growing animosity between the countries.

“On the topic of tariffs, Biden has not yet pledged to remove the tariff regime he inherited from Trump and is not likely to do so without getting something in return that would satisfy his base supporters,” Mojica adds. “Biden has also vowed to use other tools to keep China at bay, which may include economic sanctions, the tightening of export controls, anti-dumping investigations, restrictions to foreign investment and investigations into human rights abuses.”

The question on the minds of global traders is what can be done now to prepare for what’s to come and how proactive measures can solidify operations for the future. Supply chains experienced new levels of disruption throughout 2020, requiring changes in established production locations and tapping into new market opportunities for outsourcing. However, these moves do not come without a cost in some form, and right now, the right move is hard to determine beyond what has already been implemented. 

It’s important to note that prior to Donald Trump’s departure from the White House, the U.S.-China deal still remained a key issue for many American manufacturers. With Biden now officially sworn in, relations with China are a constant question. 

“For the last 2-3 years, many companies with supply chains involving China have moved all or some production out of China and into Vietnam, Malaysia and elsewhere in Asia,” Watts explains. “U.S. companies are also considering moving production to Mexico because of its proximity to the United States and the potential cost-savings associated with the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) implemented on July 1.” 

President Biden’s “Made in America” plan–a $400 billion, four-year increase in government purchasing of U.S.-based goods and services–will further incentivize companies to take a closer look at sourcing from the U.S., where there is capacity. “Still, we continue to hear from companies that China’s supply chain ecosystem is unrivaled, so they are experiencing growing pains as they ramp up production in other countries,” Mojica notes.

Having previously served as a U.S. Customs Headquarters attorney, Mojica predicts that under the Biden administration, tariff compliance enforcement from U.S. customs will most likely continue and even become more significant. Not only does this increase the chance for penalties and investigations but also the enforcement of USCMA and importer auditing protocols. Starting from the inside out, USMCA mirrors NAFTA while adding drastic changes to specific sectors, where operating procedures are not a “one-size-fits-all” approach. For many companies, USMCA requires a careful comparison and evaluation from compliance to anticipated penalties. 

“Companies that seek to benefit from cost savings under the USMCA must have a compliance infrastructure in place to verify that its products qualify for preferential treatment under the agreement, Mojica says. “Based on our experience working with multinational companies, developing adequate internal controls requires an effort that may involve stakeholders in various departments, including procurement, finance, supply chain and legal. U.S. Customs afforded companies through the end of 2020 to get up to speed, but that grace period has since expired and will be followed by USMCA audits.”

The Phase One trade deal is an additional key topic that companies are grappling with. Which strategic planning efforts will support business and whether there will be additional conflict between the already strained relationship with China are in question. Future agreements are at a standstill as Phase One requirements have yet to be fulfilled on China’s end and show no progress. 

The question is: Now that Biden is the 46th U.S. President, what will the Phase One Deal look like? 

“Biden has criticized the Phase One deal for not addressing Chinese subsidies and support for state-owned enterprises, cybertheft, and other unfair practices,” Watts points out. 

Mojica and Watts both expect an uptick in investigations into forced labor in the supply chains of companies that import merchandise into the United States.

“The U.S. government has taken a keen interest in human rights abuses around the world, and it is charging companies to ensure that there is no forced labor in their supply chains,” Mojica says. “In response to the rise in U.S. Customs-led investigations and enforcement cases concerning imports made with forced labor, companies are taking steps to enhance their supplier due diligence efforts.”

Short-term resolutions are bleak, and the inevitable shift in policy adds more of a strain on companies aiming to determine what preparations are within their control. Specific strategies can support forward-thinking approaches in the interim, but without concrete provisions, the future does not look favorable for peaceful international relations but rather growing tensions, which are already being felt. 

The future of policies in place and the possibilities for policy implementation have yet to be fully felt under the Biden administration. The future of trade could be completely different from what companies are currently navigating on a domestic and international scale in the coming weeks and months. Nevertheless, companies would do themselves a favor by extending strategic approaches and ensuring compliance while anticipating another year of change.


Richard Mojica is a member of Washington, D.C.-based law firm Miller & Chevalier, where he counsels U.S. and international companies on how to minimize the cost of importing merchandise into the United States through strategic customs planning and duty-savings programs.

Dana Watts is counsel of Miller & Chevalier’s International Practice, focusing on customs law. She advises clients with all aspects of import compliance.