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THE GREAT DISTANCES TRAVELED SO YOU CAN STAY AT HOME

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THE GREAT DISTANCES TRAVELED SO YOU CAN STAY AT HOME

Baking queries are popping up all over Google, which reported that a top trending search was “how to make banana bread.”

As millions of people across the United States are ordered to stay at home and shelter in place, many have found they have a surplus of free time on their hands that was once filled with commuting, socializing and generally being somewhere other than their house or apartment. So what to do? Of course there is enough content on online streaming and gaming services to keep us enthralled for many lifetimes, but a lot of people are trying to make the best of the hand they’ve been dealt by using the time to learn a new skill, create something, or better themselves.

The activities we are filling our time with while confined to our homes show just how monumentally global our influences, choices and opportunities really are. While restricted to our small slices of the world we have the opportunity to cook food using ingredients and make things with materials that have traveled huge distances. And we can learn the skills and practices that are part of cultures thousands of miles removed from our own, all thanks to trade – both historical and present.

Globally-Inspired Baking

Whipping up delicious baked goods is comforting and rewarding. Little is more satisfying than making your own bread from scratch – it’s the nearest most of us will come to alchemy, and it’s utterly delicious. In fact, so many Americans are turning to this source of comfort that flour and yeast are running low and producers are fighting to keep up with demand.

Bread isn’t the only option available for home chefs. Trade provides a gateway to international culinary influences, allowing us to import the knowledge of grandmothers the world over. A few simple ingredients such as flour, yeast, fat and sugar (but beware the tariffs!) are all you need to make authentic Italian pasta, fluffy Chinese steamed buns or mouthwatering Colombian arepas. A quick Internet search will help you find family recipes to master yourself.

If you fancy something a little sweeter, how about a plate of fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies – what could be more American? With cocoa beans imported from West Africa and vanilla pods from Mexico and Madagascar, you can again credit international trade with bringing you the ingredients to craft culinary magic. And for classic banana bread, your bananas are probably from Ecuador, the Philippines, Costa Rica, Colombia or Guatemala, and their complex trade story goes much further.

Knitting Together Cultures

Time at home has also reignited interest in creative outlets like painting, writing and crafting. Knitting, crochet and embroidery are some of the most popular activities we’ve been picking up to keep our hands busy, serving both as something to do and a great way to help calm anxious minds. Although only to be used when there is no other option, generous crafters in some communities are helping out by sewing homemade masks, reminiscent of the wartime “knit your bit” movement to get socks and warm clothing to front-line troops.

knitting and sewing

If you’re looking to knit up something cozy during isolation, wool from the animals of the world has you covered. The alpacas and vicunas of the Andean Highlands of Peru are a valued source of soft and squishy wool, and in South Africa Angora goats (originally from Turkey) are farmed and shorn for Mohair. And of course, humble sheep the world over offer up their coats. The many different breeds from places such as the Falklands, Spain, Australia, or the UK produce a huge variety of wool for our handmade sweaters, hats and scarfs.

Thanks to trade and innovation, numerous plant-based yarns are also available, beyond the obvious cotton. Great for crafting light and airy creations, they include materials such as raffia made from the fibers of raffia palms native to tropical Africa and Madagascar. You could also pick up yarn made from wonder-plant hemp, whose top producers include China and Canada, or yarn made from Australian eucalyptus, sustainably and ethically sourced.

Staying Healthy Inside

The closures of gyms and fitness studios and the stresses of staying cooped up mean people are trying to find ways to stay fit and healthy while they isolate, including exercising at home and experimenting with healthy foods.

Though you can no longer take a spin class or use the elliptical at your local gym, workouts that can be done at home have seen a surge in popularity, and many group fitness classes are trying to transition to providing virtual content. Many of these fitness classes and practices originally came to the United States from abroad.

Yoga mats have seen a spike in popularity on Amazon as people turn to the ancient Indian discipline to find their inner peace amidst the turmoil. One in three Americans have tried yoga at some point, and that statistic seems likely to increase even further. Perennial favorite Pilates is another way people are trying to stay healthy. It is now practiced worldwide but was originally brought to North America by German immigrant Joseph Pilates.

Young mother doing yoga with 3-years girl in front of window. Downward facing dog asana

Another way to combat the negative effects of social distancing and lack of variety is to seek out healthy foods to consume, like superfood products that claim to boost immunity or calm anxiety.

Thanks to international trade we now have access to all kinds of foods that can help us fuel and feel better. One of these is Japanese Matcha, a green tea powder made from tea primarily grown in two regions in Japan that has been a prominent part of culture there for centuries. Purported benefits include boosting brain function and helping to protect the liver and heart health. Once almost solely enjoyed in Japan, it is now available across the United States, and even at Starbucks and Dunkin’. Another popular superfood is turmeric, U.S. imports of which have surged in recent years from $2.5 million to $35 million between 2001 and 2017. It has been enjoyed in India for over 4,500 years for its ability to fend off illness but now it’s available in any grocery store to add to a home-cooked curry or to use in a turmeric latte.

International Trade Helping Our Domestic Lives

Having to distance yourself from friends and loved ones and stop doing activities you enjoy is undoubtedly tough. However, we can be thankful for – and find pleasure in – what we can still do, thanks to international trade and a globalized world.

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Alice Calder received her MA in Applied Economics at GMU. Originally from the UK, where she received her BA in Philosophy and Political Economy from the University of Exeter, living and working internationally sparked her interest in trade issues as well as the intersection of economics and culture.

This article originally appeared on TradeVistas.org. Republished with permission.

working from home

New to Working from Home Full-Time? Here’s How to Stay Productive.

As the coronavirus pandemic threatens public health and the U.S. economy, more people are working from home on a regular basis. The move follows social distancing guidelines as an attempt to slow the outbreak, but keeping scattered workforces connected and productive can be challenging for managers and employees.

“This is new terrain for all involved, but employees and their companies can come out of this stronger by learning how to work together even better while they’re physically apart,” says Dr. Jim Guilkey (www.jimguilkey.com), author of M-Pact Learning: The New Competitive Advantage — What All Executives Need To Know.

Optimally, working remotely can sharpen the skills you have and open new avenues of training that broaden skill-sets and increase results. But technology alone can’t smooth the transition to remote working, and both employees and business leaders must learn how to implement new structures and some new or tweaked processes.”

Dr. Guilkey offers tips for both managers and associates to make working from home work out well for their companies:

For employees:

Get started early. “When going to the office, you normally get up and out the door early,” Dr. Guilkey says. “At home, this is more difficult. Get up, take a shower, and get started.”

Create a dedicated work space. People who haven’t worked remotely may need to experiment with different approaches to find what setting works best for them. “Just because you’re not going to the office doesn’t mean you can’t have an office. Dedicate a specific room or surface in your home to work,” Dr. Guilkey says“You should associate your home office with your actual office. This creates the correct mindset for being productive.”

Structure your day like you would in the office. Workers need to adopt exceptional conscientiousness when it comes to dividing their day into intensive work, communications, personal time and family life,” Dr. Guilkey says. “Have an agenda. Schedule meetings and project time and stay on schedule.”

For managers:

Set expectations.“It is vital that employees know what is expected of them,” Dr. Guilkey says. “When will you be available? How long will it take to get back to someone?”

Create a cadence of communication. Without daily face-to-face interaction, there’s more importance on communication. “A rhythm of communication is vital – daily check-ins, weekly one-on-ones, weekly team meetings, etc. ” Dr. Guilkey says.

Take a video-first approach. “Video, with all the current technology, is the most effective means of remote communication,” Dr. Guilkey says. “Invest in reliable tools.”

Maintain company social bonds. One drawback of working remotely is the potential breaking of social bonds that are necessary for productive teamwork. “Video conferencing or a quick Google chat with a colleague is vital to keep relationships strong,” Dr. Guilkey says. “Employees miss face-to-face banter and impromptu discussions in the physical office, so seeing faces on the screen daily is optimal for morale and a sense of normalcy.”

“Employees and employers can take this unprecedented time as a time to improve individually and as a company,” Dr. Guilkey says. “Working from home and working well together can go hand-in-hand when everyone is pulling even harder in the same direction.”

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Jim Guilkey, PhD (http://www.jimguilkey.com) is the author of M-Pact Learning: The New Competitive Advantage — What All Executives Need To Know. He is the president of S4 NetQuest and a nationally recognized expert in instructional design and learning strategy, with extensive experience in leading the design, development, and implementation of innovative, highly effective learning solutions.

Under his leadership, S4 NetQuest has transformed the learning programs for numerous corporations, including Johnson & Johnson, McDonald’s, Merck, Nationwide, Chase Bank, BMW, Cardinal Health, Domino’s, GE Medical, Kaiser Permanente, Yum! Brands, and others. Guilkey is a frequent speaker at national conferences and corporate training meetings. Before co-founding S4 NetQuest, Guilkey served as the assistant director of flight education at The Ohio State University. He received a BS in aviation and an MA and PhD in instructional design and technology from Ohio State.

toilet

TOILET PAPER: A UNIQUELY AMERICAN OBSESSION

The sight of barren grocery store shelves in the first few weeks of the coronavirus crisis sent thousands of shoppers scrambling for basic supplies – including, in the United States, toilet paper. As of April 1, bathroom tissue remained a sought-after commodity nationwide, out of stock at big-box retailers like Costco and Walmart, and even online at Amazon.

This sudden scarcity has made toilet paper as valuable as any other paper currency. Neighbors using the NextDoor app are bartering toilet paper for eggs and other household essentials, reports Bloomberg, and a recently viral Tik-Tok video showed a man tipping delivery drivers with rolls of toilet paper instead of cash. There’s even been a wave of toilet-paper-related crime. In North Carolina, for instance, sheriff’s deputies found a stolen tractor-trailer carrying 18,000 pounds of bathroom issue, while in Florida, police arrested a man for stealing 66 rolls from a Marriott hotel. A surging number of price-gouging investigations have also focused on the exploitation of desperate shoppers; some chain stores, for example, have reportedly demanded $10 a roll, along with $26 thermometers and $40 for a single pair of face masks.

Americans, however, might be unique in their fixation on toilet paper, despite reports of toilet paper panic-buying in other parts of the world. Americans are not only the world’s largest producers of toilet paper, they are also its most prolific users. In fact in many places globally, toilet paper – along with basic sanitation – is an unimaginable luxury. Toilet paper shortages, it turns out, are truly a first-world worry.

In global toilet paper usage, Americans are on a roll

According to Tissue World Magazine (yes, there is such a thing), North American consumers used an average of 25 kilograms of toilet paper per person in 2018 – or the equivalent of 144 Charmin Mega-Rolls – far outstripping the average global per capita usage of just 5 kilograms a year. By comparison, consumers in western Europe and Japan used only about 15 kilograms per person, while toilet paper usage is close to negligible in Africa, the Middle East and many parts of Asia.

Who Uses the Most Tissue

The vast bulk of the toilet paper Americans use is domestically produced. According to the market forecasting firm IndexBox, just 7.5 percent of Americans’ bathroom tissue is imported. Even so, the United States is still the world’s largest importer of toilet tissue, accounting for 9.4 percent of global imports, according to MIT Media Lab’s Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC). China, meanwhile is the world’s largest exporter, followed by Germany, Japan, Poland and Italy. China, does not, however, export much of its toilet paper to the United States; rather, 80 percent of Chinese exports end up in other parts of Asia, Africa and Europe. What toilet paper the United States does import comes primarily from Canada and Mexico.

TP imports

Unlike with other categories of consumer goods, Americans don’t rely on foreign toilet paper because its domestic production is so strong. Among the nation’s top manufacturers are global consumer products giants such as Kimberly-Clark (maker of Cottonelle and Scott); Procter & Gamble (the maker of Charmin and creator of Mr. Whipple); and Koch Industries’ Georgia-Pacific (maker of Quilted Northern and Angel Soft). Clearwater Paper Corporation, which reportedly operates one of the world’s largest toilet paper factories in Lewiston, Idaho, is the nation’s biggest maker of store-brand toilet paper, such as for the grocery chain Kroger and for Costco. (According to the Idaho Statesman, each of the factory’s 1300 workers received 36 free rolls of toilet paper, as well as 24 rolls of paper towels, in what another local news outlet described as a “pandemic bonus.”)

Why the world isn’t flush with toilet paper

Global trade in toilet paper totaled $24.4 billion in 2018 – a relatively small figure compared to other consumer goods such as cosmetics ($44.5 billion), shoes ($99.6 billion) or refrigerators ($43.1 billion). International trade accounts for about 22 percent of global tissue consumption, according to one market analysis.

One reason that toilet paper-dependent countries like the United States rely on domestic production is that it’s the cheapest option. The United States, for instance, has plentiful supplies of both virgin and recycled wood pulp, which are the raw materials for toilet paper. And because of its bulk, toilet paper is also expensive to transport, which means that foreign toilet paper would be more costly by comparison – at least as a finished product. In fact, more than a third of the global trade in toilet paper is in so-called “parent rolls” of tissue – giant rolls that are converted by paper mills into smaller rolls and then packaged into the plastic-wrapped six-packs you would (normally) find on the shelf.

But there are other reasons why there is no vast global market for toilet paper, despite the central role it seemingly plays in Americans’ everyday lives. One is the popularity of bidets in many parts of the industrialized world, including in Europe and especially in Asia. As Tissue World Magazine points out, today’s high-tech bidets are stiff competition for low-tech toilet paper. In Japan, for instance, “high-tech toilets based on water and/or air jetting with several additional functions, including automatic lid opening, music, ozone deodorant systems and urinalysis, seem to have had some negative impact on toilet tissue consumption.” Among the most popular of these luxury bidets is the Washlet “personal cleaning system,” manufactured by Japan’s TOTO. In October 2019, the company celebrated its 50 millionth sale of the Washlet.

Bidets are potentially even catching on in the United States – perhaps in part to the current toilet paper panic as well-heeled consumers look for ways to do without toilet paper altogether. Wired, for example, recently reported a spike in Americans’ interest in bidets, including a deluge of calls to domestic bidet manufacturing startup Tushy. “This could be the tipping point that finally gets Americans to adopt the bidet,” CEO Jason Ojalvo told the magazine.

But perhaps the most significant reason the rest of the world doesn’t share Americans’ attachment to toilet paper is that this most basic of human rights – access to sanitation – does not exist in vast swathes of the globe. Not only is toilet paper unavailable, so are toilets.

A global crisis in sanitation

According to the United Nations, more than half the global population – 4.2 billion people – live without access to “safely managed” sanitation, which the UN defines as access to a “hygienic, private toilet that safely disposes of people’s waste.” As many as 673 million resort to “open defecation,” which contributes enormously to the transmission of disease. More than 2 billion people drink water contaminated by feces, the UN further reports.

One tragic result is that 432,000 people die each year from diarrheal diseases as a result of inadequate sanitation, according to the UN, including 297,000 children under the age of five. According to Rose George, author of The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters, diarrhea kills a child every 15 seconds. In contrast, she writes, “Modern sanitation has added 20 years to the average human life.”

Unfortunately, just 40 out of 152 countries that have pledged to provide universal sanitation by 2030 are on track to reach this goal, the result of funding shortfalls, increasing water pollution, poor governance and conflict. The current global crisis with COVID-19, certain to ravage the developing world, will set back this progress even more. In fact, the lack of sanitation – including access to clean water for hand hygiene – could accelerate the spread of disease in many parts of the world, adding to the pandemic’s already shocking human toll.

While it’s only a matter of time before U.S. grocery store shelves are stocked again with what Americans consider the most basic of staples, many more nations have far to go before they can experience the luxury of that deprivation.

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Anne Kim is a contributing editor to Washington Monthly and the author of Abandoned: America’s Lost Youth and the Crisis of Disconnection, forthcoming in 2020 from the New Press. Her writings on economic opportunity, social policy, and higher education have appeared in numerous national outlets, including the Washington Monthly, the Washington Post, Governing and Atlantic.com, among others. She is a veteran of the think tanks the Progressive Policy Institute and Third Way as well as of Capitol Hill, where she worked for Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN). Anne has a law degree from Duke University and a bachelor’s in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

This article originally appeared on TradeVistas.org. Republished with permission.

customs

Customs Changes Course: No Longer Accepting Requests to Defer Duty Payments

On Friday, March 20, 2020, Customs announced that it was accepting requests for short-term relief from payment of estimated duties, taxes and fees due to the COVID-19 emergency, as discussed here.

Nevertheless, on March 26, 2020, Customs issued “Additional Guidance for Entry Summary Payments Impacted by COVID-19” that revised the information and policy in the earlier announcement. In its “Additional Guidance” Customs stated that it was no longer accepting requests for additional days for payment of estimated duties, taxes, and fees, but commented that CBP retains the right to allow additional days for payment in narrow circumstances, such as physical inability to file entry or payments, based on technology outages or port closures.

Single payments, daily and periodic monthly statement payments of estimated duties, taxes and fees that should have been tendered from 3/20/2020 through 3/26/2020, payment must be initiated by 3/27/2020. Trade members who did not pay Customs for estimated duties, taxes and fees from 3/20/2020 through 3/26/2020 must initiate payment by 3/27/2020.

Separate from reversing its policy on a limited number of “additional days” for duty relief, we also reported that CBP was considering a more extended 90-day tariff relief plan. Recent reporting, though, indicates that this 90-day tariff relief plan has been shelved. We understand that a number of senior administration officials (including Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and economic adviser Larry Kudlow) were in favor of granting the relief, but were outweighed by others within the Administration (Peter Navarro) as well as influential individuals in the private sector aligned with more protectionist policies.

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

 Julia Banegas is an attorney in Husch Blackwell LLP’s Washington, D.C. office.

ustr

USTR Considers 301 Tariff Exemption Requests for COVID 19 Medical Supplies

As the country faces the global health crisis caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, recent announcements by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (“USTR”) signal the possibility of some relief from special tariffs on imports from China. Since July 2018, as reported previously here, the Trump Administration has imposed tariffs under Section 301(b) of the Trade Act of 1974 on nearly all U.S. imports of Chinese goods, including medical supplies that are now in high demand because of the outbreak.

USTR based the tariffs on its findings in an investigation of China’s acts, policies, and practices related to technology transfer, intellectual property, and innovation. There have been four rounds of tariffs, broadening the scope of products that are affected. With each round, USTR allowed requests for exclusion of particular products that are not adequately available in the United States.  Prior to the most recent announcements, the opportunity to request exclusions from any or all of the four lists had lapsed, but USTR continued to consider whether to grant requests that had already been filed but remained outstanding.

National priorities have changed as the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States has worsened, increasing the need for medical supplies. On March 25, USTR published a notice of the opportunity to request additional exclusions for products expected to be helpful in responding to the crisis.

Requests can be made through the online portal regulations.gov, but the window closes June 25, 2020, unless extended. Requests “specifically must identify the particular product of concern and explain precisely how the product relates to the response to the COVID-19 outbreak. For example, the comment may address whether a product is directly 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.” Decisions will be made on a rolling basis. Any responses to exclusion requests should be submitted within three business days after a request is posted.

In addition, USTR states that it has been prioritizing, in consultation with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the processing of previously filed exclusion requests “addressed to medical-related products related to the U.S. response to COVID-19,” granting approximately 200 separate exclusions on March 10, 2020, March 16, 2020, and March 17, 2020. Products excluded in this manner have included medical masks and other personal protective products.

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By Matthew R. Nicely, Joanne E. Osendarp, Eric S. Parnes, Dean A. Pinkert and Julia K. Eppard at Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP

quarantine

Surviving and Thriving in Quarantine: 3 Ways Businesses Can Turn Time into Opportunity

At this point, the story is global – businesses in communities around our country and world have shuttered, many at the direction of local, state or national governments as we battle the COVID-19 pandemic.

But grim as the picture may be today, millions of small business owners around the country need to grapple not just with the challenge of what to do while their operations are closed, but how to prepare for what lies on the other side of this crisis as the world emerges from quarantine and returns to the business.

In pursuit of a silver lining during this trying time, below are three opportunities to turn a quarantine shutdown on its head and help build businesses stronger than ever before.

Explore creative new ways to deliver your product or service – I’ve watched with fascination as many creative businesses have found ways to continue operating through a quarantine. Novel ways to deliver everything from orchestral music to personal training and therapy/addiction treatment have made the rounds as viral social media videos or popular articles. A similar solution may not be realistic for all businesses, but particularly if you deliver personal services (as opposed to hard goods and products that require in-person consumption), taking the time to invest in and perfect your digital delivery right now could pay benefits down the road.

Imagine a local personal trainer that works via in-person training sessions exclusively. These weeks (or months) may force their training sessions with existing clientele to video-conference, but if that trainer is intentional about streamlining their online offering they’ll be able to tap into a national (or international!) new customer base during and even after the quarantine ends.

Embrace any opportunity to explore an alternative delivery method for your businesses’ product or service, and you may reap benefits down the road.

-Take the time to complete bigger tasks you’ve been pushing off – there are some projects that are just hard to do when you are engaged in the full-time business of helping customers and producing a product each day. Large manufacturing facilities at companies like GE, Ford, Boeing, and more understand this as a fact of life – they proactively schedule dedicated plant-shutdown weeks where assembly lines stop completely to create space for large projects that wouldn’t be possible during normal operation.

Businesses of all sizes suddenly have this opportunity. What can you accomplish during your ‘plant shutdown’? Well, for ideas – there are physical changes (rearranging a showroom, gym, or restaurant seating arrangement to allow more functional usage), periodic maintenance (steam your carpets, paint your walls, organize your warehouse) and business tooling/service improvements you can make. Are you paying too much for your website, your payment solution, or your inventory management tools? Not all of these projects require significant investment, and it’s likely that some leg work today could save you money down the road.

Time and elbow grease could upgrade your physical space. Building a beautiful, more flexible site on Squarespace or Wix could reap benefits as customers experience your online storefront for months or years. Explore whether you’re using the best payments solution. What other tools do you use to run your business that you could evaluate right now?

Most businesses get one chance to make these decisions as you start operation, and the switching cost is very high once you’re locked in -mostly because change requires closing your business for some period. The quarantine might have forced the closure – take advantage!

-Build your skills – In my decade of experience working with small businesses (small ecommerce merchants with eBay, cash-flow solutions with Kabbage, and I currently work with Drum, focusing on providing new ways for businesses to market themselves), I’ve learned people start and operate businesses because they believe in their core mission, not because they’re a magical jack-of-all-trades superhuman.

Retailers sell things they love to produce and curate. Restaurateurs create amazing dining experiences. Contractors are able to bring remodels and renovations to life. In an ideal world, entrepreneurs should spend as much of their mental and physical energy on the thing they’re really good at and leave the other elements of a business to others.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the reality that most business owners live with. There’s always more work to be done than there are hands to do it, and any business owner wears multiple hats – you can’t offload everything. I’m sure there’s a hat every business owner wears that doesn’t fit so well.

If your poorly-fitting hat is marketing-related, maybe a few weeks of couch time is great for pouring over free marketing tutorials (courtesy of LinkedIn Learning/Lynda.com). If you struggle with keeping your financials straight and organized, maybe this is a great time to dive headfirst into QuickBooks resources. Even better – leverage the collective power of the internet (particularly Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook) to find a subject matter expert. You may find a similarly stir-crazy professional with knowledge you’re looking to develop that’s willing to provide some free/low-cost advice or trade some consulting hours for business services or products.

There are no easy answers – we’re all going to muddle through the next weeks and months together. But business owners are resilient, and they’re resourceful – I’m sure there is no shortage of brilliant ideas floating around. See what these suggestions could do for you, then pay it forward – share your own ideas, whether on social media or directly with your contacts.

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Eric Nalbone is the Head of Marketing for Drum, a company building new ways for businesses to leverage the power of customer and community referrals. He has previously led Marketing for Bellhops, a tech-enabled moving company headquartered in Chattanooga, TN, and held a variety of roles with Kabbage, eBay, and General Electric. Eric resides in Atlanta, GA with his wife and three dogs.

customs

Customs Providing Immediate Short-Term Duty Deferrals to Approved Importers Working to Provide Longer Term Relief to the Importing Community

Short term case-by-case relief to approved importers: On Friday, March 20, 2020, Customs issued the following message:

Due to the severity of Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will approve on a case by case basis additional days for payment of estimated duties, taxes and fees due to this emergency. Please note we are working on a future message that will provide further information. Please watch your CSMS messages.

NOTE: CBP has confirmed that the March 20, 2020 debit authorizations for the Periodic Monthly Statements and the daily statements have been transmitted to the Department of Treasury. Please work directly with your financial institution if you wish to prevent these funds from being withdrawn.

Requests should be directed to the Office of Trade, Trade Policy, and Programs at OTentrysummary@cbp.dhs.gov.

We are advised that companies sending requests for “additional days” are receiving responses from CBP such as the following:

Thank you for your message. Yes, you are approved for additional days for payment due to the COVID – 19 emergency. Please note we are working on a future message that may provide an additional timeframe for payment. Please watch your CSMS messages. Please let me know if you have any additional questions.

Based on the above CBP Message and anticipated response, our comments and suggestions for companies seeking “additional days” for payment of duties are as follows:

-CBP does not specify the number of “additional days” in its Message or the response; however, we are advised that for the time being Customs is granting an additional 10 days to specifically approved companies.

-The message does not specify the information to be provided in the request. At a minimum, companies requesting additional days for payment of duties, taxes, and fees owing should include the exact company name and their Importer of Record (IOR) number with the request. Additionally, it may be prudent to include a brief statement specifying the company’s need for the additional time requested and the harm that the company is currently facing.

-The CBP Message advises companies granted additional days to “work directly with your financial institution.” Even if CBP grants the additional days requested, Customs at this time does not have the ability to stop its automated system from requesting the transfer of funds (duties, fees, taxes) from designated bank accounts for specific companies. As such, the company responsible for payment of the duties and fees will need to coordinate with its bank (i.e., its financial institution) in advance so that the bank will block incoming funds transfer requests from CBP. We are advised that CBP’s system normally transmits electronic payment requests three times, so the bank should be prepared to block transfers in response to all three incoming CBP requests.

-CBP’s system automatically generates liquidated damages notices for non-payment and late payment of duties, fees and other amounts owing. Companies receiving “additional days” for payment of amounts owing should expect to receive such notices. We understand that providing the CBP authorization message to the approved party should be sufficient to cancel any such notices in their entirety (assuming that the amounts owing were fully paid within the extension period).

-The CBP Message covers “estimated duties, taxes, and fees.” We are not aware that it provides additional time for the payment of penalties, liquidated damages or other amounts that may be owing CBP.

-We are aware that industry groups have identified different parties for the “additional days” request other than the party identified in the CBP Message (OTentrysummary@cbp.dhs.gov). At this time, we recommend that companies seeking additional days should use the email address specified in the CBP Message.

Likelihood of longer-term (90-day) relief to the importing community: In response to ongoing discussions and requests by several trade organizations CBP is considering a 90-day extension that would be applicable to the larger importing community. Essentially, this would align duty payments with the 90-day extension currently granted by the IRS to tax filers. We expect CBP to issue a Federal Register concerning this broader extension policy in the near future and will provide updates accordingly.

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

Julia Banegas is an attorney in Husch Blackwell LLP’s Washington, D.C. office.

small business

How to Lead a Small Business Through Coronavirus and other Troubling Times

With the coronavirus shaking up the economy and upending the day-to-day operations of businesses, it’s perhaps more critical than ever that corporate CEOs and small business owners summon up all their leadership skills.

Employees who usually are just down the hall are now working remotely from home. The supply chain is disrupted. And customers and clients may be changing their spending habits.

But, as important as business savvy and financial expertise can be in riding out all the economic effects of the pandemic, other traits also come into play and maybe just as essential, says Marsha Friedman, a successful entrepreneur who still leads a business she launched three decades ago.

“One of those essential traits is courage,” says Friedman, founder and president of News & Experts (www.newsandexperts.com), a national PR firm. “Thirty years ago when I started my company, I probably would never have said it takes courage to lead a small business, but without it, I assure you, you’ll fail.”

Friedman, who is also the ForbesBooks author of Gaining the Publicity Edge: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Growing Your Brand Through National Media Coverage, understands this first-hand. Her firm, like many businesses, endured tough economic times after the 9/11 attacks. Revenue dropped and bankruptcy loomed as a real possibility.

“I had to figure out how to turn my company around,” she says. “It took courage, endurance, and perseverance, but I knew I could not go back, so I had no choice but to go forward.”

Courage is just one of what Friedman calls the 5 C’s for building and maintaining a successful business through good times and bad.

“They’re the guiding principles I’ve learned through the ups and downs and all the mistakes,” she says. “They can work during the difficulties we now face as well.”

In addition to courage, Friedman’s other C’s are:

Caring. First, care enough about yourself and your dreams to believe you can achieve success even in these daunting times, Friedman says. “Just as important is caring about your staff and creating a positive work environment for them despite the troubles we face,” she says. “Be supportive of them throughout this situation that is bringing additional stress to everyone’s lives.” Finally, a good business leader cares about customers, Friedman says. Be willing to listen to their concerns, take responsibility for mistakes, and correct them.

Confidence. Most people have faced and overcome challenges in life. The confidence that allowed them to prevail over those challenges needs to be brought into play in business more than ever right now, Friedman says. “Believing you can reach for and achieve your short-term and long-term goals is essential to getting you there,” she says. “Maintaining your confidence is important to get through these unsettling times.”

Competence. It’s critical to stay up on the disruptions in your industry that the coronavirus is causing. “If you’re forced to downsize, this may be the time to reorganize and tap into the skills and abilities of your remaining team that are different from the roles you hired them for,” Friedman says. “That’s why it’s always important to have hired competent people who you can rely on no matter what the situation.”

Commitment. Stay dedicated to your goals no matter how difficult that becomes during these challenging conditions. Friedman says there may be times when this will be not only difficult but downright painful. That was the case for her during those tough times after the 9/11 attacks. “I had to make drastic cuts, including letting go of beloved employees,” she says. “But I never wanted to suffer a failure, and so I stayed committed to the goal and succeeded in pulling the business through those rough times.” 

“As we face the current challenges, you have to stay the course, remain positive and show caring for everyone related to your business,” Friedman says. “Most of all, no matter how dismal it seems right now, you need to have confidence that you are going to get through it.”

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Marsha Friedman, ForbesBooks author of Gaining the Publicity Edge: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Growing Your Brand Through National Media Coverage, is a successful entrepreneur and public relations expert with nearly 30 years’ experience developing publicity strategies for celebrities, corporations and professionals in the field of business, health and finance.  Using the proprietary system she created as founder and President of News & Experts (www.newsandexperts.com), an award-winning national public relations agency, her firm secures thousands of top-tier media placements annually for its clients.  The former senior vice president for marketing at the American Economic Council, Marsha is a sought-after advisor on PR issues and strategies, who shares her knowledge both as a popular speaker around the country and in her Amazon best-selling book, Celebritize Yourself.

stimulus

Can We Afford Trillions in Stimulus to Combat COVID-19?

The United States has approximately $150 trillion of total consolidated private and public assets and $100 trillion total net wealth (assets minus liabilities). The $1.5 trillion monetary stimulus portion is about 1% of our asset base, so for context, it is far from being financially ruinous. We are a very wealthy nation with vast financial and intellectual capabilities.

The Federal Reserve action of lowering interest rates and driving the 10-year treasury yield into negative real yield territory causes concern that it will eventually produce inflation. But maybe not. The Great Recession of 2008 and 2009 contain interesting and important economic history lessons regarding inflation. In response to this severe downturn, interest rates were reduced to near zero and the world was flooded for many years with US dollars, usually causing concern that inflation will ensue, yet inflation remained stubbornly low; as economic theory might have predicted, the classic scenario of too many dollars chasing too few goods did not unfold.

The world was simply too productive, spitting out goods and services at a rate unheard of just a few decades earlier, primarily due to new technologies in the fields of manufacturing, communications, transportation, and information systems. What ensued were too many dollars chasing too many goods, neutralizing the inflationary effect. By logical extension, deflation, to some extent, would have most likely occurred absent the monetary and fiscal stimulus. In short, inflation (or deflation) is the interplay between the money supply and productivity.

One of the best barometers and leading indicators of inflation is a basket of commodity prices which have, in real terms, generally been depressed over the past decade, not government statistics which are lagging indicators and can be improperly defined and collected, hence less reliable.

If this is truly a national emergency, a substantial fiscal stimulus is warranted, assuming it is applied properly. And that is a big assumption. Though large chunks of fiscal stimulus are designed to meet short-term needs, like a spike in immediate health care costs associated with the virus, and to soften a variety of financial hardships, there will be a significant set-aside for longer term projects to stimulate the economy in an attempt to avoid a recession.

Even prior to this national emergency, there was much debate regarding infrastructure projects to “rebuild our crumbling infrastructure.” The response should always be to build a business case, on a project-by-project basis, for public dissemination. With a conservative set of underlying assumptions, each project should estimate the discounted future cash flows to determine if it makes economic sense and, given that we have limited resources, compared to the net returns of other competing projects. There should always be (but probably are not) a backlog of these “shovel-ready” projects with well thought out and documented financial plans on the shelf at all times for just these kinds of emergencies.

Equally important, a rigorous post-audit process of public sector capital projects to measure what was projected in cost outflows and future beneficial inflows to the actual results, are required for accountability and full transparency on public record. Developing better forecasting skills and techniques is essential to enhance future efficiency in the allocation of limited capital. You get what you measure. And if you don’t measure it, you won’t get it.

Since interest rates are at historic lows, it makes sense to undertake valid infrastructure projects now versus later when both costs and interest rates may be at significantly higher levels. The reality is we probably have been significantly underinvesting in legitimate public infrastructure projects. The time is now when the economy desperately needs the appropriate stimulus.

Though often projects make sense and have public support, many people hesitate because it is subject to the wheeling-and-dealing of politicians, who have a dismal record of efficient execution. Coupled with this, are special interest constituencies which risk steering public funds to projects that have the most influential backers, not the highest return. Additionally, public sector projects have a storied history of massive cost overruns—poor planning, cronyism, corruption, and costly union preferences in certain jurisdictions. These factors serve to cast doubt and undermine public support for otherwise valid investment projects that benefit future economic growth and opportunity, as well as providing meaningful employment and additional economic growth in the short run.

Over a decade ago, we undertook infrastructure stimulus measures to confront another crisis, with less than stellar execution and results. Let’s get this one right by developing a new set of processes and procedures that will not only make this stimulus package much more effective, but will serve us well whenever a massive crisis arises requiring similar measures. If accomplished, it would represent a valuable silver lining to this crisis.

All eyes are on our political class to see if it is up to the task.

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Richard Smith has a range of business experience from private development stage start-ups to $300-million public companies. As chief financial officer, he led a successful $132-million initial public offering (IPO) and many private placements to fund and capitalize high-growth companies. Currently, Smith is the Managing Director of an advisory firm specializing in analyzing economic and financial conditions and their impact on financial projections and operations. Smith received his MPhil from Cambridge University and is a certified public accountant (CPA).

To learn more, visit www.richoutlook.com and connect with the author on Twitter and LinkedIn.

business

Keeping Your Business on Track During the Coronavirus Outbreak

The coronavirus outbreak, which is severely affecting business operations around the globe, was recently declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization. C.H. Robinson continues to monitor the situation in the U.S. and globally, staying close to our contract carriers and discussing continuity plans in the event shipping trajectories need to be adjusted due to disruptions or closures at any ports. Although this is not the first or the last event to disrupt global supply chains, unpredictable logistics require a proactive approach for importers and exporters to keep business running as usual.

The latest in air and ocean travel

As factories and production in China return to full efficiency, the whiplash in other areas is starting to take place, particularly in consuming nations such as the U.S. and Europe. We continue to see elevated cases in developed nations that have a heavy reliance on manufacturing outside of the U.S., specifically China. Given this continued volatility, global importers are eager to restock their inventory. As a result, available capacity on the Trans-Pacific will continue to be volatile due to the removed capacity in the market.  The empty container supply has also dwindled in regions where China trade has been a catalyst, primarily North America and Europe, this can have a ripple effect if these empty containers do not get repositioned back to China to support the increase demand that is anticipated at the tail end of March into April.

Similar to China, airlines have canceled majority of passenger flights in and out of Europe and South Korea due to safety concerns and lack of travel demand. Cargo space may be constricted as certain limitations are imposed on passenger travel resulting from adjusted flight schedules and capacity. Although passenger planes have been used to transport cargo more frequently in recent years, available capacity is not heavily impacted by the cancellations due to air charter operators and blank sailings diminishing from ocean carriers. However, contract rates and transit times may need to be adjusted as the airfreight market remains fluid.

As we continue to closely monitor the situation, below are important considerations that will help keep your supply chain moving and better navigate any shipping challenges associated with the latest travel restrictions and schedule shifts.

Assessment of inventory levels

Having an accurate assessment of your inventory is expected, but it’s important to understand how limitations on imports, not only from China but around the globe, will impact your current inventory and regular shipping cadence. If you haven’t already, start discussions with your freight forward around production planning and forecasting. It’s important to look ahead to determine your transportation needs as demand is expected to surpass available capacity in the coming weeks.

Planning ahead in production

There are numerous variables to consider when planning for production. Working through these with a supply chain expert will help you be prepared and proactive as the uncertainty around the virus continues.

-What will production look like and has there been any discussion with the vendors and factories?

-How are existing inventories compared to sales projections?

-What plans are in place in case there continues to be a shortage of workers in China or the demands are not being met within a specific window of time?

-Has there been a discussion about how the backlog will be addressed?

-Where are your warehouse locations in proximity to delivery locations? Ensure you have business continuity plans in place, so deliveries are not impacted.

-Do you have enough air capacity to address decreased passenger flights?

-Is an expedited ocean or sea-air being looked at as an alternate option?

Backup sourcing options

The current backlog in China is a prime example of the importance of a diversified supply chain – including modes of transportation, carriers and sourcing locations. When there is any kind of delayed start to production, keeping up with the workload poses a challenge, and backup sources may need to be considered. Additional sourcing options are not always easy to find and keeping up with the sheer demand and quality controls can be a challenge. Connecting with a global supply chain expert to vet reliable options is important to help ensure success.

While we may not know how long this global pandemic will last, C.H. Robinson’s global network of experts are dedicated to helping you get your shipments where they need to be. We continue to closely monitor the situation and provide updates through our client advisories as needed. We encourage you to reach out to your account manager or connect with an expert for additional questions.

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Sri Laxmana is the Vice President of Global Ocean Product at C.H. Robinson