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Over a Million Websites Seized in Global Operation - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

WASHINGTON – More than 1 million copyright-infringing website domain names selling counterfeit automotive parts, electrical components, personal care items and other fake goods were criminally and civilly seized in the past year through the combined efforts of law-enforcement agencies across the world, high-profile industry representatives and anti-counterfeiting associations.

The ongoing intellectual property enforcement initiative targeting fake websites, dubbed Operation In Our Sites, was facilitated by the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center), a joint-task force agency led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The IPR Center, which stands at the forefront of the U.S. government’s response to IP theft, worked directly with key international law-enforcement authorities and industry organizations representing the electronics sector, luxury brand-name designers, film and entertainment and several entities specializing in apparel and accessories through the major enforcement effort.

Roughly 33,600 website domain names were criminally seized in a collaborative effort between ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Europol, Interpol and police agencies from 26 different countries. Industry partners participating in the operation were fully responsible for civilly seizing 1.21 million domain names and shutting down 2.2 million erroneous ecommerce links featured on social media platforms and third-party marketplaces.

“The IPR Center is committed to supporting enforcement actions that target copyright-infringing websites threatening the health and safety of unsuspecting consumers by offering dangerous counterfeit goods,” said IPR Center Director Alex Khu. “Collaborative efforts with external law enforcement agencies and industry have led to a crackdown on intellectual property theft that negatively impacts economies and funds organizations involved in other criminal activities.”

Investigations led by HSI resulted in the removal of copyright-infringing websites that sold counterfeit airbags and integrated sensors, both commodities that present a potential safety hazard. An investigation based in Louisiana led to the seizure of five website domain names – including Chinaseatbelt.com; Airbagpart.com; Chinasafetybelt.com; Fareurope.com; and Far-europe.com – involved in the sale of fake automotive parts. A joint case between HSI and Department of Defense investigative agencies resulted in the removal of PRBlogics.com, a copyright-infringing website offering counterfeit integrated sensors.

Each year, the market is flooded with counterfeit products being sold at stores, on street corners and online. Additionally, criminals have taken advantage of the internet to deceive, sell and ship fake products directly to American consumers. The most popular counterfeit products seized each year include watches, jewelry, handbags, wallets, wearing apparel/accessories, consumer electronics/parts, pharmaceuticals and personal care products.

The IPR Center – formally codified in the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 – is one of the U.S. government's key weapons in the fight against criminal counterfeiting and piracy. The center uses the expertise of its 24 member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions, and conduct investigations related to IP theft. Through this strategic interagency partnership, the IPR Center protects the public's health and safety, the U.S. economy and the warfighters.​


U.S. Department of Commerce Issues Affirmative Preliminary Countervailing Duty Determination on Steel Racks from China - U.S. Department of Commerce

WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced the affirmative preliminary determination in the countervailing duty (CVD) investigation of imports of steel racks from China, finding that exporters received countervailable subsidies ranging from 5.04 to 150.49 percent. 

As a result of today’s decision, Commerce will instruct U.S. Customs and Border Protection to collect cash deposits from importers of steel racks from China based on these preliminary rates.

The petitioner estimates that imports of steel racks in 2017 were valued at approximately $200 million.

The petitioner is the Coalition for Fair Rack Imports, the members of which are Bulldog Rack Company (Weirton, WV), Hannibal Industries, Inc. (Los Angeles, CA), Husky Rack and Wire (Denver, NC), Ridg-U-Rak, Inc. (North East, PA), SpaceRak (Marysville, MI), Speedrack Products Group, Ltd. (Sparta, MI), Steel King Industries, Inc. (Stevens Point, WI), Tri-Boro Shelving & Partition Corp. (Farmville, VA), and UNARCO Material Handling, Inc. (Springfield, TN).

The strict enforcement of U.S. trade law is a primary focus of the Trump Administration. Since the beginning of the current Administration, Commerce has initiated 137 new antidumping and countervailing duty investigations – this is a 242 percent increase from the comparable period in the previous administration.

Antidumping and countervailing duty laws provide American businesses and workers with an internationally accepted mechanism to seek relief from the harmful effects of the unfair pricing of imports into the United States. Commerce currently maintains 462 antidumping and countervailing duty orders which provide relief to American companies and industries impacted by unfair trade.

Commerce is currently scheduled to issue its final determination on or about April 1, 2019.

If Commerce makes an affirmative final determination, the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) will be scheduled to make its final injury determination on or about May 16, 2019. If Commerce makes an affirmative final determination in this investigation, and the ITC makes an affirmative final injury determination, Commerce will issue a CVD order. If Commerce makes a negative final determination, or the ITC makes a negative final determination of injury, the investigation will be terminated and no order will be issued.

Click HERE for a fact sheet on today’s decision.

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Enforcement and Compliance unit within the International Trade Administration is responsible for vigorously enforcing U.S. trade law and does so through an impartial, transparent process that abides by international law and is based on factual evidence provided on the record.

Foreign companies that price their products in the U.S. market below the cost of production or below prices in their home markets are subject to antidumping duties. Companies that receive unfair subsidies from their governments, such as grants, loans, equity infusions, tax breaks, or production inputs, are subject to countervailing duties aimed at directly countering those subsidies.


Probable Economic Effect of Providing Duty-Free Treatment for Currently Dutiable Imports from the European Union Will Be Focus of New USITC Investigation - U.S. International Trade Commission

The U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) is seeking input for a newly initiated investigation into the probable economic effect of providing duty-free treatment for currently dutiable imports from the European Union (EU).

The investigation, U.S.-EU Trade Agreement: Advice on the Probable Economic Effect of Providing Duty-free Treatment for Currently Dutiable Imports, was requested by the USTR in a letter received on November 9, 2018.

As requested, the USITC will advise the President as to the probable economic effect of providing duty-free treatment for imports of currently dutiable  products from the EU on industries in the United States producing like or directly competitive products and on consumers.  In preparing its advice, the USITC will consider each article in chapters 1 through 97 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) for which U.S. tariffs will remain, taking into account implementation of U.S. commitments in the World Trade Organization. The advice will be based on the HTSUS in effect during 2018 and trade data for the year 2017.

In addition, as requested, the USITC will prepare an assessment of the probable economic effects of eliminating tariffs on imports from the EU of certain agricultural products on U.S. industries producing the products concerned and on the U.S. economy as a whole.  A list of the agriculture products is attached to the USTR’s request letter.

The USITC expects to submit its report, which will be confidential, to the USTR by March 19, 2019.

The USITC is seeking input for the investigation from all interested parties and requests that the information focus on the issues for which the USITC is requested to provide information and advice.  For the purposes of these analyses, the USTR requested that the Commission assume that the United Kingdom will no longer be a Member State of the EU.

The USITC will hold a public hearing in connection with the investigation on December 18, 2018.  Requests to appear at the hearing should be filed no later than 5:15 p.m. on December 6, 2018, with the Secretary, U.S. International Trade Commission, 500 E Street SW, Washington, DC 20436.  For further information, call 202-205-2000.

The USITC also welcomes written submissions for the record.  Written submissions should be addressed to the Secretary of the Commission at the above address and should be submitted at the earliest practical date but no later than 5:15 p.m. on January 4, 2019. All written submissions, except for confidential business information, will be available for public inspection.

Further information on the scope of the investigation and appropriate submissions is available in the USITC’s notice of investigation, dated November 20, 2018, which can be downloaded from the USITC Internet site (www.usitc.gov) or may be obtained by contacting the Office of the Secretary at the above address or at 202-205-2000.


OTEXA:  Announcements - Office of Textile and Apparel

11/20/2018 – The United States Trade Representative (USTR) has notified Congress of the Administration's intention to enter into negotiations on a trade agreement with the United Kingdom (UK) after the UK exits the European Union. USTR is seeking public comments on a proposed U.S.-UK trade agreement, including U.S. interests and priorities, to develop U.S. negotiating positions. Written comments, as well as notification of intent to testify and summary of testimony for the public hearing are due January 15, 2019. The public hearing will be held on January 29, 2019. Federal Register notice, 11/16/2018

11/20/2018 – The United States Trade Representative (USTR) has notified Congress of the Administration's intention to enter into negotiations on a trade agreement with the European Union (EU). USTR is seeking public comments on a proposed U.S.-EU trade agreement, including U.S. interests and priorities, to develop U.S. negotiating positions. Written comments, as well as notification of intent to testify and summary of testimony for the public hearing are due December 10, 2018. The public hearing will be held on December 14, 2018. Federal Register notice, 11/15/2018

11/20/2018 – The United States International Trade Commission (USITC) provided notice of its investigation - U.S.-Japan Trade Agreement: Advice on the Probable Economic Effect of Providing Duty-Free Treatment for Currently Dutiable Imports - and scheduling of a public hearing. For information on filing a request to appear at the public hearing on December 6, as well as dates for which pre-hearing briefs and statements should be filed, see the Federal Register notice dated 11/9/2018.


Statement by FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., on Risk of Heavy Metals, Including Nickel and Lead, Found in Some Kratom Products - US Food & Drug Administration

Over the last year, the FDA has issued numerous warnings about the serious risks associated with the use of kratom, including novel risks due to the variability in how kratom products are formulated, sold and used both recreationally and by those who are seeking to self-medicate for pain or to treat opioid withdrawal symptoms. These include warnings about the contamination of kratom products with extremely high rates of salmonella that put people using kratom products at risk, and resulted in numerous illnesses and recalls and the agency’s first-ever mandatory recall order after a rigorous investigation. As part of our efforts to assess kratom for contamination in the products tested, we also found disturbingly high levels of heavy metals in kratom products.

FDA scientists tested 26 separate kratom products obtained by our field investigators. These products were obtained as part of the efforts related to the multistate outbreak of salmonella infections or in connection with regulatory actions we’ve taken to protect consumers from companies selling unapproved kratom products with unsubstantiated claims about treating serious medical conditions. Among the heavy metals we found were lead and nickel at levels not considered safe for human consumption. While the levels of the specific products we’ve tested so far are not likely to result in immediate acute heavy metal poisoning from a single use, some of these products included levels that, with chronic use, could cause some people to suffer from heavy metal poisoning. We are concerned that there may be other kratom products on the market that also contain heavy metals.

As a result of our analysis, we’re contacting companies marketing these kratom products to make them aware of the heavy metal testing results. And we are putting out this advisory to warn consumers so that they can take steps to protect their health.

Kratom is not legally marketed in the U.S. as a drug or dietary supplement. While it is important to gather more evidence, data suggest that certain substances in kratom have opioid properties and that one or more have the potential for abuse.

Certain kratom products have been found to contain salmonella and cause infections. And now, there’s the potential for heavy metal exposure at unacceptable levels posing even more risk to consumers.

Despite all these risks, we know that kratom has grown in popularity in recent years due to unsubstantiated claims about its purported benefits. We know that many people have unmet needs when it comes to treating pain or addiction disorders. For individuals seeking treatment for opioid use disorder who are being told that kratom can be an effective treatment, I urge you to seek help from a health care provider. More widespread adoption of treatment with safe and effective FDA-approved medications, coupled with relevant social, medical and psychological services, has the highest probability of being the most effective way to help those suffering from opioid addiction transition to lives of sobriety. There are three drugs (buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone) approved by the FDA for the treatment of opioid use disorder, and the agency is committed to promoting more widespread innovation and access to these treatments to help those suffering from opioid use disorder transition to lives of sobriety. There are also safer, non-opioid options to treat pain. We’re deeply committed to these patients, and to advancing new, safe and effective options for those suffering from these conditions. I assure you that we’ll continue to pursue innovation in these areas.

The findings of identifying heavy metals in kratom only strengthen our public health warnings around this substance, and concern for the health and safety of Americans using it. To date, there have been no adequate and well-controlled scientific studies involving the use of kratom as a treatment for opioid use withdrawal or other diseases in humans. Nor have there been studies on how kratom, when combined with other substances, may impact the body, its dangers, potential side effects, or interactions with other drugs.

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.​

 
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