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Commerce Modifies Countervailing Duty Regulations to Address Currency Undervaluation

countervailing duty

Commerce Modifies Countervailing Duty Regulations to Address Currency Undervaluation

The Commerce Department issued its final rule amending the countervailing duty regulations to address potential currency undervaluation. This revision to Commerce’s regulations will take effect in 60 days and will apply to all new investigations and administrative reviews that begin on or after April 6, 2020. The new rules would effectively clear the way for the U.S. to start applying punitive tariffs on goods from countries accused of having undervalued currencies.

Under the revised regulations, Commerce in the conduct of its countervailing duty proceedings will now have the authority to take into consideration the real effective exchange rates to determine the extent to which a currency is undervalued. They will also be able to seek the Treasury Department’s formal, non-binding evaluation on whether the foreign government’s actions were responsible for the undervaluation. If Commerce determines that there is undervaluation of the currency and that the undervaluation resulted from government action, Commerce will then potentially consider currency exchanges by the exporters and/or traders to be a subsidy given that the exporter or trader would effectively receive more domestic currency in return for their exchanges of U.S. dollars than they otherwise would have been able to receive under the old rules.

In the conduct of its countervailing duty investigations and reviews, Commerce will now look at each individual exporter’s currency exchanges, and specifically, the amount of additional domestic currency received in exchanges due to undervaluation. It will then potentially add the currency subsidy amount to the exporter’s overall countervailing duty rate. The move would give new muscle to U.S. complaints about currency manipulation that have in the past targeted economies like China and Japan and thus turn the more than $6 trillion-a-day global currency market into a new battlefield in the Trump administration’s trade wars. The new rule was opposed by the Treasury Department when it was first proposed in May 2019 as it would allow U.S. companies to file trade complaints with the Commerce Department over specific imported products by treating undervalued currencies as a form of an unfair subsidy.

The new regulations have far-reaching effects as it would allow the U.S. to impose countervailing duties on goods from countries accused of manipulating their currencies, even in cases where they were not officially found to be a currency manipulator by the U.S. Department of Treasury. Previous administrations have examined this issue but have delayed or resisted efforts to take such actions as it could potentially lead to currency wars amongst trading partners.

Commerce’s announcement is the result of campaign promises from the 2016 election. “This Currency Rule is an important step in ensuring that unfair trade practices are properly remedied,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross in a statement. “While successive administrations have balked at countervailing foreign currency subsidies, the Trump Administration is taking action to level the playing field for American businesses and workers.”

In a question and answer section attached to Monday’s announcement, the Commerce Department said it would preserve the final power to make any determination about whether a currency’s value presented an unfair subsidy for that country’s exporters. The statutes governing Treasury’s mandate to monitor currencies and Commerce’s power to impose anti-subsidy duties had different criteria, Commerce said.

“Hence, the two processes may result in different outcomes as to a particular country, theoretically including the possibility of applying countervailing duties to a country that does not meet the criteria for designation under the laws Treasury administers,” the statement said.

Commerce also said the new rule would allow it to specifically impose currency-related tariffs against China even if the Treasury did not label it a currency manipulator. The Treasury last month lifted a designation of China as a manipulator just days before Trump signed a “Phase One” trade deal with China that included language on currencies, though the new rule appears to give the U.S. powers to act that go beyond what was included in last month’s deal.

The Commerce Department put some purported caveats on its powers, saying it would “not normally include monetary and related credit policy of an independent central bank or monetary authority” in determining whether foreign governments had acted inappropriately to weaken currencies. “Commerce will seek and generally defer to Treasury’s expertise in currency matters,” it said.  This statement, however, leaves a lot of room open for potential unilateral action by Commerce, as Commerce has reserved for itself the authority to find that undervaluation exists, even if Treasury in its bi-annual report makes a determination that a particular currency is artificially weak but not undervalued. This type of broad authority is similar to Commerce’s authority to conduct Particular Market Situation (“PMS”) investigations resulting in contested decisions and appeals to the Court of International Trade.

R&M International Recognized for Export Expansion

Delivered by the hands of Wilbur Ross, R&M International now boasts the
President’s “E” Award for Exports along with other select U.S. companies making a substantial impact on export initiatives. With a focus on producers of raw textile and plastic materials, R&M Sales Corporation focuses on disposal strategies for over production, substandard, and waste materials. The company then utilizes the materials for other opportunities in trading and recycling.

“The President’s “E” Award for Export is a great recognition of a long history of working very hard in developing export markets for raw materials in textiles and plastics,” said Stephen Rawson, Partner, R&M International. “It speaks to the importance we place on logistics, efficiency, and excellence. Foreign buyers want quality products from the United States and we are honored to receive the “E” Award.”

Companies are vetted through the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service office network in the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration for the coveted recognition. Selected winners are determined by substantial export growth and the strategies implemented to increase overall exports. R&M reports 79 percent of its sales are to export markets with 90 percent of its suppliers located in domestic market regions.

“Exporting isn’t just for big businesses, 98 percent of all U.S. exporters are small and medium-sized firms,” said Tony Ceballos, Director of the U.S. Commercial Service in Philadelphia. “Here in Pennsylvania, “E” Award winner R&M International is a great example of how businesses are boosting their bottom line and international competitiveness by exporting.”

“In just the last four years, R&M has nearly doubled its export sales, which now account for nearly 80 percent of total sales. Each year, our Philadelphia office—working in tandem with our worldwide U.S. Commercial service network—helps hundreds of businesses like R&M realize their export goals. Our office can assist your business as well,” Ceballos concluded.

Source: R&M International

ROSS APPOINTS 21 MEMBERS TO TRADE FINANCE ADVISORY COUNCIL

On March 7, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced the appointment of 21 members to the Trade Finance Advisory Council (TFAC), which is his principal advisory body on matters relating to access to trade finance for U.S. exporters.

“The ready availability of trade finance is a crucial ingredient to the success of U.S. exporters across virtually every economic sector,” Ross says in the announcement. “The TFAC provides industry stakeholders a critical voice in government, allowing the department to better assist American exporters.”

During its first two-year term, the TFAC provided detailed policy and technical recommendations to enhance private and official financing options for U.S. companies. The first meeting of the TFAC’s second charter term was on March 27 in Washington, D.C.

The appointees for the TFAC’s second two-year term are:

  • Alan Beard, managing director, Interlink Capital Strategies, Arlington, VA
  • Alisa DiCaprio, head of Trade and Supply Chain, R3, New York, NY
  • Anurag Bajaj, regional head of Transaction Banking and global head of Correspondent Banking, Standard Chartered, New York, NY
  • Chapin Flynn, vice president of Enterprise Partnerships, Mastercard, Wayne, PA
  • Craig Moore, founder of Mooring Tech Inc. and co-owner/founder of Old Fourth Distillery, Atlanta, GA
  • Craig Weeks, independent consultant, Weaverville, NC
  • Daniel Pische, senior vice president of Trade Finance, First American Bank, Chicago, IL
  • David Herer, CEO, ABC-Amega Inc., Buffalo, NY
  • David Shogren, president, U.S. International Foods LLC., St. Louis, MO
  • Dominic Capolongo, executive vice president and global head of Funding, PrimeRevenue, Inc., Atlanta, GA
  • Gary Mendell, president, Meridian Finance Group, Santa Monica, CA
  • Ken Rosenberg, senior vice president and manager for International Banking, Bridge Bank, San Jose, CA
  • Kenneth Wengrod, co-founder/president, FTC Commercial Corp., Los Angeles, CA
  • Kevin Klowden, executive director, Center for Regional Economics, Milken Institute, Santa Monica, CA
  • Madison Spach Jr., partner, Spach, Capaldi and Waggaman, LLP, Newport Beach, CA
  • Michael Finkelstein, CEO and founder, The Credit Junction, New York, NY
  • Qingyuan Zhang, director of Global Trade Finance, John Deere Financial Services, Johnston, IA
  • Richard Brent, CEO, Louroe Electronics, Van Nuys, CA
  • Stephen Simchak, vice president and chief international counsel, American Property Casualty Insurance Assn., Washington, D.C.
  • Steven Bash, senior vice president and International Banking Group manager, City National Bank, Los Angeles, CA
  • William Glassford, senior vice president, Zions Bancorporation, Salt Lake City, UT

To learn more about the TFAC, visit www.trade.gov/TFAC.

Titanium Sponge Imports Under Investigation

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross confirmed the launching of an investigation surrounding titanium sponge imports to determine its impact and potential threats on national security. The investigation follows Ross’ acceptance of the Section 232 petition in September of last year from Titanium Metals Corporation, a domestic producer.

“Titanium sponge has uses in a wide range of defense applications, from helicopter blades and tank armor to fighter jet airframes and engines,” said Secretary Ross. “The Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security will conduct a thorough, fair, and transparent investigation before we make a recommendation to the President.”

As a primary material utilized for the production of civilian aircraft, chemical plants,  space vehicles, satellites, naval vessels, missiles, and munitions, the outcome of the investigation determines next steps for a significant portion of U.S. imports, as it’s noted that “Imports account for more than 60 percent of U.S. titanium sponge consumption,” according to information in the release.

Ross announced the launching of the investigation to Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan through a letter to serve as the required notification following the initiation of an investigation.

Source: U.S. Department of Commerce

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross Steps in It

On Jan. 24, when the government shutdown was on its 34th day with no end in sight, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said on CNBC’s Squawk Box that he didn’t “quite understand why” federal workers needed to rely on homeless shelters and food banks after missing a paycheck. He added that government employees should be able to get a federally guaranteed loan against paychecks they would receive retroactively.
 That brought swift condemnations from several corners, including the one darkened by Restore Public Trust, a Washington, D.C.-based “non-partisan public interest group focused on exposing corruption and malfeasance at the highest levels of government.” Executive Director Caroline Ciccone said, “It’s no wonder that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross doesn’t understand the plight of the 800,000 federal workers who have missed a paycheck due to Trump’s government shutdown. Ross has spent his career closing factories, laying off thousands of workers, and being unconcerned about the devastation of the people and communities he left behind. He is completely out of touch with the sacrifices hard working Americans have to make to support their families, and even led a company that perpetrated fraud and foreclosure.”
The following day, Restore Public Trust launched a new website: JobLossRoss.com. An interactive map shows places in 11 states where Ross-controlled companies laid off 11,000 workers.