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Free Trade Agreements: Is There a Trade Lane Left Without One?

trade

Free Trade Agreements: Is There a Trade Lane Left Without One?

Since the first Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in 1860, a lot has happened. A solid 160 years will do that for you. On the FTA front specifically, the focus has also shifted: what used to be an opportunity for significant duty reduction and, therefore, a more competitive position in the FTA partner’s home market has turned into a tool for faster access to the market and control of a trading relationship. With the applied, weighted, mean duty rates globally down to 2.59% from 8.57% in 1994 (Source: macrotrends.net based on World Trade Organization (WTO) data), the importance of duty rate reduction has been marginalized—so why is there still such a strong movement towards adding more FTAs to an already considerable total worldwide?

Some Recent Developments

Trade agreements are not only about duty rates anymore; the collaboration and facilitation part is just as, if not more, important. That means trading partners make efforts to reduce the paperwork on the trade lane, give priority to incoming shipments, and collaborate on data exchange and simplification of procedures. In today’s economies, these elements are just as crucial as a few duty points. In addition to the facilitation, environmental clauses are included in new FTAs. Got to start somewhere. Customs unions (like the EU) take it one step further—they usually allow for goods to move freely between member states and have a single common tariff for the outside world.

In a similar fashion, the FTA accounts for financial and administrative arrangements that are not limited to duty rates and import documents. In a broader scope, abolishing of export subsidies, transparency with added value calculations, investigative cooperations, etc. are part of the package and simplify the use and verification of FTA claims.

Perhaps not a trend (yet?), but the Pan-Euro-Mediterranean is loosening its Rules of Origin (likely in effect in 2021). Rules of Origin set forth the requirements that need to be met to benefit from FTA arrangements (i.e., qualify for preferential treatment). Typically, Rules of Origin encompass a required tariff shift (i.e., a substantial transformation needs to take place) and/or a value-added component (i.e., the value add of locally sourced parts, materials, labor, etc. needs to exceed a specific threshold). The value-added thresholds have historically been relatively high (60% and up) and loosening those requirements will simply allow more products to qualify, which will give developing countries especially more opportunities to qualify their exports for preferential treatment.

Per the WTO, over 300 Regional Trade Agreements (RTA) are currently in force. This number only reflects agreements that include preferential duty rate schemes, as agreements such as bilateral investment treaties or Joint Commissions would increase this number two- or three-fold. The RTA number includes bilateral/local agreements as well as ‘monster trade pacts’ such as the EU, USMCA or ASEAN – China agreements. It has been a steady growth of FTAs since the 1990s, with a peak in the action between 2003 and 2011. And (see below) there is no end in sight.

What’s Next?

Go big or go home is what the EU is thinking. Agreements are in place with around 40 countries, ratification in progress for agreements with around 30 countries, and agreements with another 20 countries are waiting to be signed. For any countries left behind, it seems that there are ongoing negotiations (e.g., Australia, New Zealand) or plans to negotiate. Don’t despair.

Never-ending speculation on a Trans Atlantic agreement (US – EU) or a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) including the US will not be put to rest until actually completed and in force (the US withdrew from the TPP in 2017). The US currently has 14 FTAs with 20 countries, re-did the USMCA in 2020, and negotiations with Kenya and Taiwan seem to be in the works.

Lastly, with Brexit in its final stages, the UK is also breaking off FTA relationships with EU partners. That means the UK will have to create separate FTAs with these countries. Practically, not all of the EU FTAs will have a UK equivalent by January 1, 2021, and some may never be in place. This means regular (Most Favored Nations – MFN) rates will apply come January 1 unless another preferential program (like the Generalized System of Preferences) applies. But with the UK exit comes an opportunity for Britain to conclude agreements the EU has not been able to pull off. Perhaps a US – UK FTA is nearer than thought. Let’s check the odds on that!

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Anne van de Heetkamp is VP of Product Management and Global Trade Content at Descartes and is an international trade expert with 20+ years of industry experience. Previously he served as Director for global trade compliance/management company, TradeBeam.

tariffs

Court of International Trade Receives its First Complaint Against Section 301 China Tariffs

On September 10, 2020, HMTX Industries LLC, along with Halstead New England Corporation, and Metroflor Corporation (importers of vinyl tile) filed a complaint (Ct. No. 20-00177) at the Court of International Trade (CIT) challenging both the substantive and procedural processes followed by the United States Trade Representative (USTR) when instituting Section 301 Tariffs on imports from China under List 3.

The List 3 tariffs went into effect on September 24, 2018. This is the first challenge of its kind filed against the administration’s use of Section 301 Tariffs in the ongoing trade war between the United States and China.

The complaint alleges that USTR’s institution of List 3 tariffs violated the Trade Act of 1974 on the grounds that USTR failed to make a determination or finding that there was an unfair trade practice that required a remedy and moreover, that List 3 tariffs were instituted beyond the 12-month time limit provided for in the governing statute (19 U.S.C. § 2414). The complaint also argues that the manner in which in the List 3 tariff action was implemented violated the Administrative Procedures Act (APA).

According to the complainants, USTR failed to provide adequate opportunity for comments, failed to consider relevant factors when making its decision (e.g. no analysis of increased burden on U.S. commerce from unfair trade practices), and failed to connect the record facts to the choices it made by not explaining how the comments received by USTR came to shape the final implementation of List 3.

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Nithya Nagarajan is a Washington-based partner with the law firm Husch Blackwell LLP. She practices in the International Trade & Supply Chain group of the firm’s Technology, Manufacturing & Transportation industry team.

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

Turner Kim is an Assistant Trade Analyst in Husch Blackwell LLP’s Washington, D.C. office.

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

corruption

TACKLING CORRUPTION IN THE TRADING SYSTEM THROUGH A CULTURE OF INTEGRITY

No Disagreement Here

For decades, economists have extolled the virtues of the rule of law as a critical factor in leveling the playing field through a framework of rules and regulations that are easy to understand and evenly, logically and fairly applied to all participants in an economic system. This central premise is reflected in the principle of “predictability through transparency,” one of three pillars of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the global trading system. At the heart of this focus has been an emphasis on reducing the role that corruption can play in the administration of laws, function of government, conduct of business, and protection of citizen rights.

Back in an October 1996 address to the Board of Governors at the Annual Meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, then World Bank President James Wolfensohn gave a groundbreaking speech in which he described corruption as a cancer and committed the Bank to strengthen its internal controls and supporting the international fight against corruption.

“…corruption diverts resources from the poor to the rich, increases the cost of running businesses, distorts public expenditures, and deters foreign investors…it erodes the constituency for aid programs and humanitarian relief.”

– James Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank, October 1996

The Heavy Toll of Corruption

Significant attention has been paid to the goal of reducing corruption, particularly for emerging economies. The World Economic Forum calculates the global cost of corruption is at least $2.6 trillion, or roughly 5 percent of global GDP. For emerging economies alone, the UN estimates that corruption costs these countries some $1.2 trillion annually through bribery, theft and tax evasion.

Cost of Corruption

It is also widely recognized that global corruption can undermine the benefits of agreements negotiated to introduce predictability and transparency into the trading system. Former WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy described corruption in the international trading system as tantamount to “a hidden increase of the cost of trade.” Within the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the global community identified the promotion of the rule of law as a key priority for development through Goal 16, which is dedicated to promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies, and to achieve this goal by 2030.

Given the consensus among stakeholders within the international trade community, the question is: how to effectively combat corruption to achieve our shared goals of rules and laws that are applied objectively, consistently and equitably to all?

Since the time of Wolfensohn’s catalyzing speech, governments, the business community, civil society and international institutions have rallied around global efforts to create initiatives and mechanisms to mitigate the scourge of corruption. Member states and international organizations drafted and signed anti-corruption conventions through the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the United Nations (UN), and established regional conventions and working groups in Africa, the Americas and Asia.

Corruption Agreements Table

A Comprehensive Approach to Dismantling Corruption

In spite of the proliferation of anti-corruption instruments in regional and international organizations, the issue of corruption persists as a challenge. Punitive measures only go so far in achieving anti-corruption aims. A more comprehensive approach to dismantling corruption centers on enhancing integrity and ethics in an effort to affect the cultural practices and norms that perpetuate corruption.

This change was reflected in the 2017 OECD Recommendation of the Council on Public Integrity that reframed the anti-corruption strategy to focus on promoting the essential societal pillar of integrity as a sustainable response to the global problem of corruption. The adoption of these recommendations was part of a deliberate shift to go beyond ad hoc efforts toward a more comprehensive and strategic approach to promoting integrity through systems, culture, and accountability.

Defining Public Integrity

The OECD defines the term public integrity as “a consistent alignment of, and adherence to, shared ethical values, principles and norms for upholding and prioritizing the public interest.” Consistent with describing public integrity as an aspirational goal (versus the punitive connotation of combatting corruption), this definition grounds the work of promoting integrity in global efforts to make government functions more effective, economies more accountable, and societies more inclusive by involving all stakeholders in the effort to improve governance and strengthen the rule of law.

In May, the OECD took the next step in publishing the OECD Public Integrity Handbook. The handbook details best practices, principles and concrete actions for promoting a culture of integrity in government functions with an emphasis on generating dialogue between business, government and civil society to promote greater stakeholder collaboration in upholding public integrity values. The report expands on the 13 public integrity recommendations articulated in 2017 and goes a step further by translating those principles into practical measures governments can implement to institute change.

The OECD describes the handbook as a roadmap to help governments identify what integrity looks like and why it is important to take a whole-of-society approach in building public trust. The handbook can thus be viewed as a toolkit that helps anti-corruption advocates undertake the hard work of creating the ‘right relationship’ between government, citizens, business, and civil society.

Public Integrity

Public Integrity is Important to Trade and Investment Flows

International organizations and governments are not the only institutions concerned about combatting corruption, creating a culture of integrity, and strengthening the rule of law.

These issues are equally significant for the private sector in an increasingly globalized world as they are determinant of the business environment. This is why trade agreements have been grounded in rule of law principles, and have incorporated transparency and anti-corruption components to instill investors with greater confidence they can compete and operate in global markets. As noted by The World Justice Project, “uneven enforcement of regulations, corruption, insecure property rights, and ineffective means to settle disputes undermine legitimate business and deter both domestic and foreign investment.”

Companies make trade and investment decisions based on where they have confidence in the integrity of public and private institutions and where there is fairness, enforcement and proper adjudication of the law. In a 2017 Business Pulse Survey conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Association of American Chambers of Commerce in Latin America and the Caribbean, 31 percent of respondents described the rule of law as the “most important” issue to address for business, while 45 percent of executives characterized strengthening the rule of law and fighting corruption as the most important issues to be addressed to enhance economic growth in the region.

Corruption Quote

It is this emphasis on promoting public integrity that underpinned the inclusion of an anti-corruption chapter in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) that entered into force on July 1, 2020, representing one of the first times governments have formally committed to combat bribery and corruption in a trade agreement. The private sector has also prioritized an anti-corruption component in the bilateral trade negotiations now underway between Brazil and the United States.

Given the private sector’s interest in eliminating corruption from global trade, the U.S. Chamber recently co-hosted a public forum with the OECD entitled “The Role of Public Integrity in Promoting the Rule of Law” to examine the importance of the public integrity movement for global commerce. Julio Bacio Terracino, Acting Head of the OECD’s Public Sector Integrity Division, joined government officials, senior executives and the U.S. Chamber for a dialogue to review the OECD recommendations, discuss practical considerations outlined in the new handbook, and examine how tools like this are helpful in creating trade and investment conditions that enable business success.

Public Integrity through the Private Sector Prism

There are a number of public-private interactions the OECD has flagged as vulnerable to corruption or solicitation of bribes, notably in customs clearance and trade facilitation, public procurement, licensing and permitting processes, and public infrastructure contracting. During the forum, executives highlighted the critical role that governments play in creating the conditions for trade and investment by leveling the playing field for all actors, creating certainty, operating transparently, upholding the sanctity of contracts, and enabling access to justice.

Through its Coalition for the Rule of Law in Global Markets, the U.S. Chamber defines the concept of the rule of law through the prism of the private sector by articulating the five factors that determine the ability of any business to make good investment and operating decisions. These elements are transparency, predictability, stability, accountability and due process — each of which requires adherence to the shared ethical values, principles and norms that define public integrity.

The whole-of-society focus of the OECD Public Integrity Handbook recognizes the private sector’s role as a co-creator of the rule of law and acknowledges that all facets of society must commit and contribute to building a culture of integrity. This approach aligns with the Coalition’s vision of business working in concert with governments, civil society, and international organizations to promote remedies that will advance the rule of law.

Fostering a culture of integrity in the global trading system that enables inclusive economic growth requires all actors to take concrete steps to maintain open, transparent and meritocratic environments where there is proper enforcement and adjudication of the law. These actions include addressing structural obstacles to trade and investment, simplifying regulatory frameworks, harnessing technology to increase transparency in public functions like procurement, permitting and licensing processes, supporting trade facilitation efforts that strengthen and make customs regimes more efficient, and extending legal investment protections. It is only through this collaborative action and partnership among all stakeholders that a world where corruption is vanquished and a culture of integrity thrives can truly be possible.

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Kendra Gaither

Kendra Gaither is the Executive Director of the Coalition for the Rule of Law in Global Markets at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Over her career spanning two decades, Kendra has specialized in international trade and investment as a career diplomat with the State Department focused working in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Americas, and global public policy innovation through strategic partnerships at Carnegie Mellon University.

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

foundational technologies

BIS Seeks Comments on Identifying “Foundational Technologies”

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (“BIS”) recently published an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“ANPRM”) regarding the identification and review of controls for certain “foundational technologies.” This ANPRM represents another step toward implementation of the “emerging and foundational technology” provisions set forth in the Export Control Reform Act (“ECRA”) of 2018, which has been slow to get off the ground. Section 1758 of the ECRA requires that “foundational technologies” be identified and that BIS establish appropriate controls for that technology under the Export Administration Regulations (“EAR”).

The ANPRM solicits public comments concerning the definition of and criteria for identifying “foundational technologies” in order to apply controls to “emerging technologies” and “foundational technologies” which are essential to U.S. national security, pursuant to the ECRA. Specifically, BIS is asking interested parties to submit comments by October 26, 2020, responding to the following topics:

-How to further define foundational technology to assist in the identification of such items;

-sources to identify such items;

-criteria to determine whether controlled items identified in AT level Export Control Classification Numbers (ECCNs), in whole or in part, or covered by EAR99 categories, for which a license is not required to countries subject to a U.S. arms embargo, are essential to U.S. national security;

-the status of development of foundational technologies in the United States and other countries;

-the impact specific foundational technology controls may have on the development of such technologies in the U.S.;

-examples of implementing controls based on end-use and/or end-user rather than, or in addition to, technology-based controls;

-any enabling technologies, including tooling, testing, and certification equipment, that should be included within the scope of a foundational technology; and

-any other approaches to the issue of identifying foundational technologies important to U.S. national security, including the stage of development or maturity level of a foundational technology that would warrant consideration for export control.

BIS explained that it does not seek to expand jurisdiction over technologies that are not already subject to the EAR. BIS, through an interagency process, seeks to determine whether there are specific foundational technologies that warrant more restrictive controls.  Interested parties may submit comments through the federal rulemaking portal (regulations.gov) or via mail to BIS.

Husch Blackwell encourages clients and companies to review the recent ANPRM for applicability.

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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.

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

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

export controls

UNPACKING US-CHINA SANCTIONS AND EXPORT CONTROL REGULATIONS: HUAWEI

This is the first in a series of articles by Eversheds Sutherland partners Ginger Faulk and Jeff Bialos explaining the legal and regulatory impacts of certain recent US sanctions and export control actions targeting various Chinese entities. Each article focuses on a different aspect of a recent US sanctions or export control regulatory action targeting China and explains in-depth the regulatory context. Recognizing that this is a highly charged political topic, the article does not condone or promote any governmental actions discussed here but is only explanatory in nature.

You undoubtedly will have heard by now that the United States has effectively blocked Huawei’s access to US exports of goods, software and technology, handicapping a giant in the global battle for 5G dominance, upsetting telecom supply chains and setting off a telecom cybersecurity crisis of conscience among many of the world’s developed and developing nations. As a result of Huawei’s designation on the US Department of Commerce’s “Entity List” in May 2019, all companies – no matter where they are – are prohibited under US law from exporting, re-exporting or transferring items that are “subject to the [US] Export Administration Regulations (EAR)” to 152 non-US Huawei affiliates. As a result, hundreds of telecommunication and software companies in third world countries are faced with the binary choice of whether to source technology and software from the United States or to transact business with Huawei.

The US government apparently concluded that this move alone did not work to prevent Huawei from benefiting from US-origin 5G semiconductor technology. Thus, more than a year later, recent rules have expanded the definition of what is “subject to the EAR,” with respect to Huawei specifically, to include offshore semiconductor production based on US technology. The changes to the rule demonstrate how US export controls are evolving to address perceived national security threats in the telecom sector writ large.

All of this is occurring against the backdrop of the US seeking to encourage friends and allies in Europe and beyond to eliminate or at least restrict the role of Huawei in their domestic telecom network infrastructure. This effort is based on concerns over the risk that Huawei theoretically could, at the behest of the Chinese government, either disrupt such infrastructure during periods of exigency or use their access to these platforms to conduct surveillance. In this regard, the new and more restrictive US regulatory approach to Huawei’s access to offshore semiconductor chips appears to have been effective. The UK has reportedly restricted its engagement with Huawei in 5G, apparently as a consequence of supply chain risks resulting from the new US rules, in other words, out of concern that Huawei might not have sufficient access to necessary semiconductor chips to meet the UK’s telecom needs. Whether other US friends and allies will do likewise remains to be seen.

 1. The initial Huawei ban

Since May 2019, the Export Administration Regulations have prohibited US and non-US persons and companies from exporting, re-exporting or transferring in the country, or causing, aiding, abetting or soliciting the export, re-export or transfer of, any item that is “subject to the EAR” to the designated Huawei affiliates.

Items that are “subject to the EAR”[1] include all commodities, software and technology, regardless of their sensitivity, that are:

1. a) in the US (even temporarily);

2. b) produced in the US, or

3. c) exported from the US.

The EAR state further that “items subject to the EAR” include all hardware, software and technology that meet the definition of that term, whether or not the items are listed on the Commerce Control List (CCL) in Part 774 of the EAR. Items subject to the EAR that are not listed in the CCL are designated as “EAR99,” which serves as a catchall category.

Non-US-origin items produced and sold from outside the US also may be subject to the EAR in the following ways:

(a)   Under the “De minimis Rule,” non-US items subject to the EAR include items anywhere in the world that contain more than a certain percentage (25% in most cases) US-origin content by value based on fair market price.

(b)  Under the “Direct Product Rule,” foreign items that:

(i)  are the direct product of certain “National Security”-controlled US technology, software, or

(ii)  are the direct product of a factory or major component of a factory (such as, chip manufacturing equipment) that is itself the direct product of specified controlled technology or software that may be subject to the EAR.

The Entity List designation created challenges for numerous US companies that are suppliers to Huawei or that afford it access to their technology platforms, such as Google’s Android operating system. Following the BIS designation, some of these US technology companies – including Google, Intel, Qualcomm and Broadcom – announced they would cease doing business with Huawei, effective immediately. Specifically, Google announced it would cut off Huawei’s access to the Google Play Store and to the core components of the Android ecosystem that are built by Google (i.e., not those distributed under the Android Open Source Project (AOSP)). Given that many third-party apps rely on Google Maps, this restricted the offerings of Huawei handsets, especially in the European markets. The chips manufacturers also were forced to shift outside of the US manufacturing and processing of silicon wafers that would ultimately be sold to Huawei.

Shortly after Huawei’s designation, in response to clamoring by industry, a Temporary General License (TGL) was issued to authorize the continued operation of existing networks and equipment, continued support to existing Huawei personal devices and equipment and cybersecurity research and vulnerability disclosures. It also authorized engagement with Huawei companies for the development of 5G standards. The goal of the TGL was to allow time in which to phase in the application of the designation for US firms with pre-existing arrangements with Huawei and allow them time to plan for an appropriate transition.

2. What was the perceived “loophole” in the rule?

Meanwhile, chipmaking factories outside of the United States, including Taiwan-based manufacturers, apparently continued to fabricate cutting-edge chips for Huawei using certain equipment that was designed, in part, based on US-origin technology.

This is because, for the first year of the rule (until May 16, 2020), whether intentionally or not, chips manufactured outside of the United States – even those designed or produced using US technology – appeared to fall outside of the EAR’s jurisdiction. Indeed, for purposes of determining US content value, the value of technology incorporated into a software or hardware component or used to design chip manufacturing equipment is not valued. As such, the “direct product rule” (prior to May 15, 2020) applied only to certain types of controlled technology to certain countries and did not extend to reexports to China of non-US-manufactured semiconductors not containing US-manufactured components.

3. How did US regulators fill in the loophole?

On May 15, 2020, almost exactly a year after the Entity List ban came into place, a new “footnote 1” was added to the Entity List banning the unlicensed export specifically to listed Huawei entities (but not to others on the Entity List) of a broad spectrum of foreign-produced telecom and computer components and equipment that are (i) the “direct product” of US technology or US software, or (ii) are the “direct product of manufacturing equipment that itself is a direct product of US technology or software. This extended the ban to, for example, semiconductor designs – and chipsets produced from those designs – that are developed on the basis of US software or technology. It also extended the ban to chipsets produced using semiconductor manufacturing equipment, even in Taiwan, if that equipment was designed on the basis of US-origin technology. According to industry experts, this seems to cover almost any chip currently in production. “To prevent immediate adverse economic impacts on foreign foundries utilizing US semiconductor manufacturing equipment that have initiated any production step,” the US provided a 120-day grace period for exports to Huawei of items based on (US-derived) Huawei design specifications as of May 15, 2020.

Under this revised rule, foreign-produced chips are prohibited for export or re-export when there is “knowledge [including awareness of a high probability] that they are destined for re-export, export from abroad, or transfer (in-country) to Huawei or any of its affiliates on the Entity List.” This change threatens to impact Huawei’s access to 5G microprocessors and appears to have caused the UK to rethink the role of Huawei in its developing 5G network. The US work to close the loophole was not yet complete, however…

4. The grip tightens…

The most recent rule change on August 20 ended the Temporary General License and also further tightened the screws on Huawei by clarifying that the ban applies (1) not only when a listed Huawei affiliate is the destination for or receives an item but also whenever it is an indirect party to a transaction involving a subject item, e.g., as a “purchaser,” “intermediate consignee,” “ultimate consignee” or “end-user,” and (2) when the foreign-produced item will be incorporated into or used in the production or development of any part, component or equipment produced, purchased or ordered by a listed Huawei entity. These changes were principally designed to address concerns raised by public commenters that Huawei could continue to procure US manufactured items through third-parties who incorporate the subject US-controlled component into a system that is ultimately sold to Huawei.

Critics of the rule have commented that the new rule will encourage China to develop its own computer and telecom system chips and technologies in order to support Huawei and other Chinese companies that rely on such chips for their products. Others have voiced concerns that – without US security patches and software updates permitted under the TGL – overseas consumers and operators will be vulnerable to severe disruptions and cyber-security risks.

Meanwhile, the global telecom sector is carefully watching countries like Germany, which is deciding the role that Huawei will play in domestic telecoms infrastructure. These decisions will signal whether continental Europe and other US friends and allies in Asia and elsewhere will fall in line behind US efforts to exclude Huawei from global networks – thereby decoupling US-China telecom supply chains. Or alternatively, whether these countries will assert their own “digital sovereignty” and allow Huawei a continued role – with attendant repercussions on their security relationships with the United States.

Meanwhile, the Department of Commerce enjoys the latitude to issue specific export licenses to firms that request to keep supplying Huawei with software or components. The stage is set for the battle to continue as China is reportedly considering retaliatory measures of its own, possibly to include its own export controls.

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Ginger T. Faulk, partner at Eversheds Sutherland, represents multinational companies in matters involving US government regulation of foreign trade and investment. She has extensive experience advising and representing global companies, counseling clients in matters arising under US sanctions, export controls, import and other national security and foreign policy trade-related regulations.

Jeffrey P.  Bialos, partner at Eversheds Sutherland, assists clients in making multi-faceted business decisions, structuring transactions and complying with complex regulatory requirements. As former Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Industrial Affairs, he brings deep experience in defense, homeland security and national security matters, including antitrust, procurement, export controls, industrial security and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

[1] See generally 15 CFR Parts 732 and 734.

Huawei

U.S. Adds 38 New Huawei Affiliates to Entity List While Again Expanding Foreign-Produced Direct Product Rule

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (“BIS”) has announced that it is further restricting access by Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. and its designated non-U.S. affiliates (“Huawei”) to U.S.-produced technology and software. BIS first added Huawei to its Entity List on May 15, 2019 and has continued to impose additional export restrictions on Huawei under the U.S. Export Administration Regulations (“EAR”). Most recently, BIS published a Federal Register notice to implement the following enhancements. Although BIS published this Federal Register notice on August 20, 2020, the following rule changes took effect retroactively as of August 17, 2020:

Addition of Thirty-Eight New Huawei Affiliates to the Entity List. In its announcement, BIS added thirty-eight (38) additional Huawei affiliates to the Entity List. This action now brings the total number of Entity List-designated Huawei affiliates to one hundred and fifty-two (152). The EAR generally prohibits anyone, anywhere in the world from supplying products, software or technology that is “subject to the EAR” to these Huawei affiliates without a BIS license.

Expiration of Huawei Temporary General License. BIS had previously issued (and then, on multiple occasions, extended) a Temporary General License which permitted certain transactions with Huawei Entity List affiliates in order to support existing networks, equipment and handsets that were in existence prior to Huawei’s initial Entity List designation on May 16, 2019. In its Federal Register notice, BIS announced that it would be allowing the Temporary General License to expire. As a result, pursuant to the expiration date set in its most recent renewal notice, the Huawei Temporary General License expired effective August 13, 2020.

Anyone who previously utilized the Temporary General License was required to obtain certain compliance certifications in connection with transactions conducted pursuant to the Temporary General License and the EAR will require those persons to retain those certifications in accordance with the EAR’s recordkeeping requirements.

Permanent Authorization for Cybersecurity Research and Vulnerability Disclosures to Huawei Entity List Companies. The Temporary General License also contained a provision which authorized the disclosure of certain information to Huawei Entity List companies in order to assist with maintaining the integrity and reliability of existing data networks. After allowing the remainder of the Temporary General License to expire, BIS permanently codified this narrow exception into the EAR in order to promote cybersecurity.

Expansion of the Huawei Foreign-Produced Direct Product Rule. In May 2020, BIS amended the EAR’s foreign-produced direct product (FPDP) rules to designate the following items as “subject to the EAR”: (i) foreign-produced items produced or developed by a Huawei Entity List affiliate through the use of technology or software controlled under certain Export Control Classification Numbers (ECCNs), and (ii) foreign-produced items that are produced using equipment which is the direct product of U.S. origin software or technology controlled under certain ECCNs and also produced according to software or technology specifications produced or developed by a Huawei Entity List affiliate. BIS has now significantly expanded this rule.

As amended, the new Huawei FPDP rule now completely disregards whether foreign-produced items produced by a 3rd party are produced according to Huawei specifications and instead extends the Huawei FPDP rule’s coverage to all foreign-produced items resulting from the specified software, technology or production equipment which are intended for incorporation into or for use in the “production” or “development” of any “part”, “component”, or “equipment” to be produced, purchased or ordered by a Huawei Entity List company or otherwise included in any transaction featuring a Huawei Entity List company as a “purchaser”, “intermediate consignee”, “ultimate consignee” or “end-user” (terms in quotation marks in the previous sentence are defined terms under the EAR).

As a result of these amendments, a much broader range of foreign-produced items are now “subject to the EAR” and therefore prohibited for export, reexport or in-country transfer to any Huawei Entity List company without an appropriate BIS license.  Although BIS will normally review such license applications on a “presumption of denial” standard, these amendments did create an exception which states that BIS will evaluate license applications involving Huawei Entity List companies on a “case-by-case” basis when they involve foreign-produced telecommunications systems, equipment and devices below the 5G level.

The amendment did feature a savings clause, which allowed the continuance of certain qualifying transactions which were initiated prior to August 17, 2020.

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Grant Leach is an Omaha-based partner with the law firm Husch Blackwell LLP focusing on international trade, export controls, trade sanctions and anti-corruption compliance.

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.

u.n. sanctions

U.S. Seeks Snapback of U.N. Sanctions on Iran Despite Departure from Nuclear Deal

The United States is formally demanding that the United Nations (U.N.) reimpose sanctions on Iran for its failure to meet commitments to limit its nuclear program set forth under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). U.N. sanctions on Iran were lifted in 2015 as part of the terms of the JCPOA, which included the United States, European Union, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia, and China as signatories. The U.S. formally withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018 and reinstated sanctions on Iran.

According to President Trump, the U.S. intends to restore “virtually all of the previously suspended U.N. sanctions on Iran. It’s a snapback.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is scheduled to go before the United Nations this week to officially notify the Security Council that the U.S. intends to restore U.N. sanctions on Iran. According to the Department of State’s press release, a range of U.N. sanctions will be restored within thirty (30) days, including the requirement to end all nuclear enrichment activities and the extension of the arms embargo on Iran, which is currently set to lapse in October.

The decision to request a snapback of U.N. sanctions on Iran follows the failure of an effort to extend a five-year U.N. arms embargo on Iran. The legality of the requested snapback by the U.S. has been questioned by other members of the JCPOA and the U.N. Security Council because the U.S. is no longer a party to the agreement. The Administration, however, maintains that as a permanent member of the Security Council, it has the authority under U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231 to push for a snapback of sanctions.

As a “participant state” in the JCPOA under the resolution, the U.S. claims it can assert “significant non-performance of commitments” by Iran to force a snapback within 30 days. It is not clear how the U.S. without support from Europe would enforce the U.N. sanctions. Without support from the rest of the Security Council, the U.S. will need to enforce sanctions unilaterally.

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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.

wto

TIME TO REFORM (AND RENEW) THE WTO

Reflect and Appreciate

The window to enjoy the bountiful cherry blossoms in the Washington DC area briefly opens and closes every spring. It would be easy to take them for granted. The show is a fleeting, but a reliable harbinger of spring renewal. Cherry blossom trees have proliferated such that one need not venture to the famous Tidal Basin to enjoy them.

If we find the trade angle in everything, as we are prone to do here at TradeVistas, one could liken the World Trade Organization (WTO) reform process to the Japanese ritual of hanami (flower viewing), where everyone takes pause to appreciate the gift of the sakura cherry blossoms as a community. The current global trading system has generated opportunities for every member to pursue growth and prosperity through increased trade. That’s beautiful and impressive, too. We’ve come to rely on it and rarely stop to appreciate it. As evidenced by the results of our July 2020 poll, the public has very little understanding of the institution’s role.

For the Japanese, the cherry blossoms represent both a recognition of the impermanence of good things, but also renewal and optimism. Viewing parties are organized to lie under the blossoms, stare at the sky, and reflect on whatever calls to mind.

Basho Haiku

Free Trade is Not Inevitable

In his book, The World America Made, scholar Robert Kagan makes the case there is nothing inevitable about either democracy or the prevalence of the global free trade system. World orders are transient. They reflect the beliefs and interests of its strongest powers. History tells us this state is indeed reversible. It can be undone. As Kagan says, “The better idea doesn’t have to win because it’s the better idea. It requires great powers to champion it.”

While the WTO was sown from the seeds of democratic, free-market ideals, WTO members have been unable to cultivate trade deals to counter China’s state-directed economic approach. The WTO’s detractors are free to plant doubts that, left untended, will grow like weeds.

Over the last year, WTO members have initiated serious discussions about how to reform the WTO. But now the organization must choose a new director general, adding a new layer of complexity to the process. Looking ahead at the future of the WTO, perhaps “renew” would be a better term to inspire a renewed appreciation for what global trade agreements have achieved, a renewed communal commitment to its future, and a renewed vision to match that of its founders.

There are at least three areas under discussion by members to renew the purpose and functioning of the WTO.

Fix What’s Wrong

Achieving transparency through timely and meaningful notifications is an important function of WTO committees. Members have an obligation to share information about regulations, policies, and other measures that affect market access for companies seeking to do business in those markets. In the case of subsidies, those measures can affect the volume and prices of commodities trade globally, affecting businesses who may even be selling primarily in their home market. But many WTO members are years behind in reporting and offer incomplete or unverifiable information, which denigrates the integrity of the process and causes other members to query whether WTO violations are being obscured. Some members are so frustrated with this delinquency they are suggesting penalties for failure to meet notification requirements, even creating an “inactive member status” in the most egregious cases.

Another core function of the WTO is to promote the resolution of disputes among members, including through the WTO dispute settlement system. The United States and other members are concerned that the Appellate Body, which can review decisions made by regular dispute settlement panels, has created rights and obligations not agreed by the members through the process of negotiation. The system is now a quarter of a century old. Experience with it offers insights into procedures that can and should be improved as an investment in the system.

Concede that Consensus is Stifling Innovation

WTO members can self-declare as “developed” or “developing” for the purpose of undertaking commitments or availing themselves of exceptions. Despite the underlying validity of acknowledging different levels of capacity or differing economic priorities, this loosey-goosey system has tilted negotiations to focus on what members won’t do, rather than what they commit to do. The United States has called it a self-declared state of paralysis.

Discussions in the WTO are beginning to focus on various data points that can be used to determine who is developed versus developing, but even those exercises might miss the larger point that lowering barriers in a country’s own market will generate economic gains worth pursuing. Take one example: opening one’s market to competition in the provision of telecommunications services creates opportunities to extend broadband access and leverage faster internet connections so that companies can be “born digital” and find their niche in global supply chains. The tendency to opt-out of liberalization commitments can conversely hold countries back in their development pursuits. There’s a philosophical disagreement here that could get glossed over as members dive into data and formulas.

The Doha Round of negotiations collapsed in part due to insistence on a “single undertaking” – that every aspect of a large package deal must be agreed before any single aspect could be agreed and implemented. Members did free an agreement to streamline customs procedures from this consensus capture. On the topic of agriculture, members agreed to move ahead with the elimination of agricultural export subsidies and adopt new disciplines on export credits, international food aid and agricultural exporting state trading enterprises absent a larger deal.

Incrementalism should be welcomed over inaction. Members are now offering papers describing how new negotiations could create agreements among interested members to begin with, with eventual agreement by some or all members. This approach will probably need to apply to the WTO “reform” process itself, with some down payments made and problems fixed without holding up progress.

Negotiate on Issues Relevant to Today’s Economy

In the same vein, willing members should be unencumbered to move ahead with negotiations on “new” issues relevant to today’s economy. For example, the United States, European Union, and Japan announced they would cooperate to develop new rules to address the practices of forced technology transfer and industrial subsidies. A significant subset of WTO members have agreed on the need to facilitate growth of the digital economy in part by ensuring that electronic commerce can flourish. They will begin negotiations and work to bring along other members as talks advance.

What Role Will the U.S. Play?

Questions remain about what role the United States will play in this process of renewal. In spring 2020, the U.S. Congress faced the possibility of a vote – the first since 2005 – on whether the United States should withdraw from the WTO, a body it helped create.

While that vote was eventually scuttled, it amplified growing criticism of the WTO by the Trump Administration – and the general public’s indifference toward the institution. A July 2020 TradeVistas poll found that more Americans either support leaving the WTO or feel “indifferent” or “unsure” about whether to withdraw.

The poll also found that Americans overwhelmingly want the United States to be “leader of the global economy”. They just don’t see membership in the WTO as critical to that goal. But – once they receive some basic information about the WTO’s role, many Americans also see how the organization can benefit U.S. companies.

These results make it clear that trade policymakers should position the WTO’s role more prominently in Americans’ understanding.

The Petals Will Fly Off

The cherry blossoms are impermanent. A strong gust of wind will force them off their branches just at their peak. The leaves fill out, the trees grow, and the blossoms seem to reappear as vibrant as ever the following year. Some trees can survive a century but most cherry blossom species live just 15 to 20 years. New seeds must be planted and the trees cared for. We’ve already lost nearly a generation of progress in the WTO. Now seems as good a time as any for reflection and renewal.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in April 2019 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness. 

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Andrea Durkin is the Editor-in-Chief of TradeVistas and Founder of Sparkplug, LLC. Ms. Durkin previously served as a U.S. Government trade negotiator and has proudly taught international trade policy and negotiations for the last fifteen years as an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University’s Master of Science in Foreign Service program.

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

AD/CVD

Commerce Proposes Modifications to AD/CVD Laws to Strengthen Enforcement

The U.S. Department of Commerce (“Commerce”) announced in a Federal Register notice that it is proposing significant changes to its antidumping and countervailing duty regulations. The last time such sweeping changes were undertaken were in 1997 after the WTO went into effect. Commerce is requesting comments on the proposed changes by September 14, 2020.

Among the most significant changes outlined in Commerce’s proposal are the changes to its conduct of scope proceedings, which determine whether a certain product is subject to the scope of an AD or CVD order; and to circumvention proceedings where importers are alleged to be avoiding duties, often by using components from the subject country to assemble the product in another country not subject to the relevant AD/CVD order. Currently, both types of proceedings are governed by the same set of regulations in 19 C.F.R. §351.225. Commerce’s proposal would separate the two proceedings into unique regulatory frameworks.

The proposed modifications also affect the following areas of analysis which are often contentious in the context of scope rulings and circumvention proceedings:

Proposed Changes to Scope Rulings/Proceedings

-The proposed changes to the scope would “codify and clarify” Commerce’s analysis with respect to mixed media products that involve commingled goods where a single item in a commingled product may be subject to an AD/CVD order. Mixed media products generally refer to a set of packaged goods that contain multiple products (g. a plastic toolbox with nails, screws, a level, a hammer, and a couple of screwdrivers where only the nails and screws are potentially subject to an AD/CVD order and the remaining items when examined individually are not).

-The changes would codify Commerce’s longstanding “substantial transformation” test or analysis, which is used to determine the country of origin of a product or products.

-The changes would codify the analytic framework in which the primary analysis in any scope inquiry is the language of the scope itself.

Proposed Changes to Circumvention Proceedings

-The proposed changes to the circumvention regulations would grant Commerce the authority to self-initiate anti-circumvention proceedings without the filing of a request or petition by the U.S. domestic industry.

-The changes would enhance Commerce’s ability to make circumvention determinations that would apply to the exporting country as a whole rather than on a company-specific basis.

-The changes would codify Commerce’s current practice with respect to various issues including the valuation methodology for parts and components; the criteria for determining whether a product is “later developed,” and the criteria for determining whether any alterations to the merchandise at issue are “minor.”

Proposed Changes to Both Scope Proceedings and Circumvention Proceedings

-The proposed regulations would also make other changes, including modifications of the deadlines in scope and circumvention proceedings and modifications to the information a party must provide in any request for initiation of a scope or circumvention proceeding.

-Perhaps most importantly, the proposed modifications to both the scope and circumvention regulations would retroactively impose duties on any unliquidated entries, dating back to the date on which the preliminary determination was issued during the original investigation, rather than to the date that the scope or circumvention inquiry was initiated, as is the case under the current regulations.

-The proposal also creates a new regulation to address procedures and standards related to Commerce’s consideration of covered merchandise referrals from Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) in Enforce and Protect Act (“EAPA”) investigations.

Proposed Changes to New Shipper Reviews

-In addition to the proposed scope changes, Commerce also has proposed major changes with respect to new shipper reviews. These include: (1) requiring more detailed information at the outset of a request for a new shipper review so that Commerce can “expend its resources in conducting a new shipper review only where there is a reasonable likelihood that there ultimately will be a bona fide sale for Commerce to review;” (2) limit requests for new shipper reviews to only those producers or exporters who can demonstrate the existence of a bona fide sale by providing certain documentation, including a certification from an unaffiliated U.S. customer that it did not purchase subject merchandise from the relevant producer or exporter during the period of investigation and that the customer will provide information requested by Commerce. The proposed regulations would also codify some of the factors Commerce will consider in determining if a sale is bona fide.

Proposed Other Changes Affecting AD/CVD Procedural Filings

-Other changes in the proposal include allowing Commerce to impose a certification requirement on importers to ensure subject merchandise is properly classified as subject to AD/CVD duties.

-Commerce also proposes to amend the regulations governing reimbursement certifications to account for updated procedures.

-Commerce also proposes to set a deadline for parties to comment on industry support in investigations.

Additionally, the proposed rules make modifications to entry of appearance filing requirements and clarify or codify practices which Commerce has adopted as a matter of practice. For example, Commerce proposes to amend the rules to reflect that an interested party that submits a scope ruling application does not need to file an entry of appearance. Similarly, for circumvention inquiries, Commerce proposes to amend the rules to reflect that an interested party that submits a request for circumvention inquiry need not file an entry of appearance.

The proposed changes to the AD/CVD laws, especially the changes to scope and circumvention proceedings and new shipper reviews, will make it more difficult for foreign exporters and U.S. importers to reduce or eliminate potential antidumping and countervailing duties.

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Nithya Nagarajan is a Washington-based partner with the law firm Husch Blackwell LLP. She practices in the International Trade & Supply Chain group of the firm’s Technology, Manufacturing & Transportation industry team.

Stephen Brophy is an attorney in Husch Blackwell LLP’s Washington, D.C. office focusing on international trade.

Jeffrey Neeley is a Washington-based partner with the law firm Husch Blackwell LLP. He leads the firm’s International Trade Remedies team.

hong kong

LATEST: CBP Issues Marking Guidance for Goods Produced in Hong Kong

On August 10, 2020, U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) issued a notice that goods produced in Hong Kong will need to be marked as a product of China starting on September 25, 2020. The marking changes are the result of the July 14, 2020 Executive Order on Hong Kong Normalization that ended Hong Kong’s special trade status.

CBP is allowing for a 45-day transition period after the date of publication in the Federal Register to implement the requirements due to the “commercial realities.” The notice does not specify how the changes affect tariff treatment of Hong Kong goods.

An administration official has stated that the Executive Order does not “provide for new U.S. tariffs on goods from Hong Kong”, but that the Administration is continuing to evaluate its policies. Therefore, at this time, it remains unclear whether goods originating in Hong Kong will be subject to the same tariffs as Chinese origin goods, including antidumping duties, countervailing duties and Section 301 duties.

Additional guidance from CBP, USTR and the U.S. Department of Commerce is expected.

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Stephen Brophy is an attorney in Husch Blackwell LLP’s Washington, D.C. office focusing on international trade.

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

Turner Kim is an Assistant Trade Analyst in Husch Blackwell LLP’s Washington, D.C. office.

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