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Is Your Supply Chain Prepared for Potential U.S. Tariffs on EU Goods?

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Is Your Supply Chain Prepared for Potential U.S. Tariffs on EU Goods?

Transatlantic tariffs came closer to reality in recent months after the United States Trade Representative (USTR) proposed tariffs on a list of products from the European Union (EU). 

Unfortunately, even if you’ve already gone through something similar with goods imported from China, the same strategy may not be effective for the tariffs on EU goods. This is due in large part to the types of proposed commodities from the EU.

The good news is there are things you can do today to adjust your import strategy to maintain compliance while insulating your company from the proposed tariffs.

Up to $25 billion worth of EU goods at stake

The USTR announcements in April and July proposed tariffs targeting up to $25 billion worth of goods. This includes items such as new aircraft and aircraft parts, foods ranging from seafood and meat to cheese and pasta, wine and whiskey, and even ceramics and cleaning chemicals. 

To date, the USTR has only provided a preliminary commodity list for the proposed U.S. tariffs on EU goods. No percentages have been announced, leaving many to wonder if the tariffs will be manageable—in the 5-10% range—or more substantial, like the 25% tariffs applied to China imports. 

On top of the tariffs, when the French Senate announced a 3% tax on revenue from digital services earned in France, President Trump threatened a counter-tax on French wine. But it’s unclear if this tax will come to fruition or fizzle out—especially since the USTR’s tariff list already includes many types of wine. 

5 key questions to insulate your supply chain

Looking for the best way to prepare your business from the potential tariff increases? Answering these key questions may help you adapt and insulate your company. 

-Do you have a plan to cover the costs? 

You may not be able to avoid paying the tariffs, but there are various strategies you may consider to help cover their costs. 

While not ideal, you could increase prices to end consumers. It may not be feasible to recover the entire cost of an added tariff, but you can at least offset a small portion of the tariff this way.

You can also adjust the cost of the goods with suppliers and manufacturers to cover a portion of the tariff. Just remember: pricing changes still need to meet the valuation regulations with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). 

-Will you need to increase your customs bond? 

The smallest customs bond an importer can hold is $50,000. That used to be enough for many importers to cover generally 10% of the duties and taxes you expect to pay CBP. 

Unfortunately, as many importers from China are learning, a 25% tariff on products can quickly exceed your bond amount. And bond insufficiency can shut down all your imports while resulting in delays and added expenses. 

To help avoid bond insufficiency, consider any increased duty amounts in advance of your next bond renewal period. And don’t wait to do this until the last minute, because raising your customs bond with your surety company can take up to four weeks. 

-Do you re-export goods brought into the U.S.? 

Duty drawback programs can’t be used by every importer. But if you can take advantage of them, they can result in big savings for your company.

In fact, you can get back 99% of certain import duties, taxes, and fees on imported goods that you re-export out of the U.S. Just be aware that you still need to pay the duties up front. And you might need to wait up to two years to get your refund. 

-Are your product classifications current and accurate?

With potential tariffs looming, consider reviewing your product classifications and make sure they’re accurate. If you find an issue, discuss it with your broker or customs counsel to discuss how you can properly rectify the issue, and avoid penalties from doing it incorrectly.

And while we’re on the topic of product classifications, never change them to evade tariffs. CBP will be on the lookout for this kind of activity, and the penalties for noncompliance can be steep.

-Do you have the support you need?

Changing your customs brokers may not sound appealing, but ensuring they provide all the services you need to stay compliant should be your top priority when working with them.

Your provider should help make sure you pay the appropriate duty rates for your products. And they should have people and services available globally to support your freight wherever it is located throughout the world. 

Also, consider simplifying your support by working with one provider that offers not only customs brokerage and trade compliance services but also global ocean and air freight logistics services. 

If you only employ one strategy…

Discuss your import strategy with your customs attorney or customs compliance expert. Bringing in specialized expertise is the most effective way to analyze how these tariffs could affect your products, your supply chain, and your business. 

If you don’t yet have a customs broker who can meet all your needs in today’s changing environment, consider C.H. Robinson’s customs compliance services. With over 100 licensed customs brokers in North America, and a Trusted Advisor® approach, our experts are ready to help.

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Ben Bidwell serves as the Director of U.S. Customs at  C.H. Robinson

trade war

How Has the Trade War Affected China?

In the last two weeks the stakes in the ongoing trade conflict between the United States and China have increased significantly. After negotiations stalled in July, President Trump expanded his tariff targets to cover nearly all imports from China. But the weapons in this conflict have become increasingly more sophisticated. Beijing retaliated by suspending purchases of U.S. agricultural products and by lowering the value of its currency to make Chinese goods less expensive abroad. In response, the U.S. Treasury named China a currency manipulator and vowed to take actions to eliminate the alleged unfair competitive advantage. In addition, President Trump announced that the United States is not going to do any business with China’s tech giant Huawei. 

While these escalations have recently uneased investors and rattled the markets, they have yet to make an obvious impact on the U.S. economy, albeit U.S. farmers have begun to experience the negative effects of lost sales to China. But how have these actions resonated in China? There are some indicators that the trade war has had an impact on the Chinese economy, as well as public perception in that country. 

At the moment, the U.S. can claim a short term victory, although China appears to be playing the long game. Official reports indicate that Chinese economic growth has decelerated to its slowest pace since 1992, as businesses have held back on investment in light of the ongoing trade tensions with the United States. Also, Chinese exports to the U.S. declined by $5.6 billion in June, versus a $1.8 billion decrease in U.S. exports to China. 

The Trump administration has claimed that its trade policy seeks to remedy problems which have been neglected for too long, and to defend America’s economic interests against perceived abuses by its trade partners. The administration has introduced tariffs as a means to address alleged intellectual property violations by China and a growing trade deficit. Its trade policy takes into account that some pain will need to be absorbed by the United States. However, it is not evident that the U.S. consumer has suffered yet. U.S. importers have to pay the tariffs, and so far many have sough ways to absorb them in whole or in part to minimize any price increases for the consumer. They have also begun to shift sourcing to third countries, including bringing some production to the United States. 

Concurrently, Beijing has implemented a robust domestic stimulus by encouraging banks to relax controls on borrowing and by cutting 2 trillion yuan ($291 billion) in taxes. Furthermore, investment in infrastructure has increased in the first half of the year and Chinese factory output rose 6.3% in June from a year earlier, compared with 5.3% in May. Also, by letting the value of the yuan fall and making Chinese goods cheaper, China has in effect offset some of the impact of the U.S. tariffs – essentially giving the U.S. consumer a tax cut.

The efforts by the Chinese government to lower domestic taxes and support an easier fiscal policy appear to have been, at least temporarily, beneficial to economic growth. If these actions are to be expanded, they may continue to serve as a further stimulus in the second half of this year in areas such as consumption and investment. Although Chinese shipments to the United States have declined, they comprise only about a fifth of its overall exports. By allowing the yuan to fall, China can boost its sales to other countries to offset declines to the United States. 

The trade conflict also does not appear to have had a negative impact on the mindset of the Chinese population at large. Skilled workers and professionals have expressed an open mind to the ongoing trade negotiations, some even welcoming them with a sentiment that “Trump is good for Chinese people” because he has opened up the dialogue between the two countries on trade which in turn has fostered certain welcome reforms in China, as well as tax cuts. Indeed, if Beijing had already planned to institute such measures, then U.S. policy may have provided ample cover for them.

The trade war has also led China to reevaluate existing global alliances, such as those with Japan and Russia. Mending fences with Russia, for instance, is key to the continuation of China’s ambitious “Belt and Road Initiative” of investment and infrastructure projects to connect Asia with Africa and Europe via land and maritime networks. 

With further entrenchment by both sides, and a trade deal increasingly unlikely before next year’s U.S. presidential elections, China appears to be bracing itself for a protracted conflict and may have reason to believe it can “win” if President Trump faces increased political pressures entering the election. As the President recently announced, China may be counting on a Democrat to win the White House to strike a new trade deal. On the other hand, a continuing conflict between two of the world’s greatest economies which has evolved from measures to address intellectual property protection and trade imbalances to currency manipulation, may in the long run lead to recession and hurt growth globally. 

Mark Ludwikowski is the leader of the International Trade practice of Clark Hill, PLC and is resident in the firm’s Washington D.C. office. He can be reached at 202-640-6680 and mludwikowski@ClarkHill.com