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USTR Amends China 301 Exclusions to Remove Two Items from List 4 - Grunfeld, Desiderio, Lebowitz, Silverman & Klestadt LLP

In a notice made available on May 26, 2020, in what was simply described as “technical amendments”, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative has removed two items from the list of exclusions granted under China 301 List 4A.

The two impacted items (which are being deleted from HTS Chapter 99, Subchapter III, Note 20(zz)) are as follows:

·                  Tumblers or disposable graduated liners for pitchers, of plastics, of a kind used in healthcare facilities (described in statistical reporting number 3924.10.4000); and
 

·                  Manually operated pill or tablet crushers of plastics, presented with attachable pouches of plastics for capturing and storing the resulting powders (described in statistical reporting number 8479.82.0080).

Please do not hesitate to contact our office with any questions regarding the product coverage of the 301 action and the scope of granted exclusions, opportunities to file new exclusion requests covering medical-care items, Section 301 duty refunds on excluded items, and/or discussing Section 301 mitigation strategies.


 Federal Register Notices:


 USDA and USTR Announce Continued Progress on Implementation of U.S.-China Phase One Agreement - United States International Trade Commission

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) today announced additional progress in the implementation of the agriculture-related provisions of the U.S.-China Phase One Economic and Trade Agreement (The Agreement), which entered into force on February 14, 2020. Recent actions described below build upon the actions announced by USDA and USTR on February 25, March 10, and March 24.  These are difficult times for both our countries.  It is important that we each continue to work to make our agreement a success.  Because of this continued progress due to the Agreement:

U.S. blueberries and California Hass avocados can now be exported to China.  This new market access will provide California avocado growers and blueberry growers from around the United States with new opportunities to market their products to Chinese consumers in the coming years.  In 2019, China imported a record volume of fresh fruits and vegetables exceeding $8.6 billion.   
 
U.S. barley for processing, along with the forage products Timothy hay, alfalfa hay pellets and cubes, and almond meal pellets and cubes can now be exported to China.  In 2019, China imported $1.5 billion of barley used as feed and for malt beverage production, and a record $500 million of forage products.  
 
In recent weeks, China updated its lists of U.S. facilities eligible to export beef, pork, poultry, seafood, dairy, and infant formula products to China. China’s lists now include 499 beef, 457 pork, 470 poultry, 397 seafood, and 253 dairy and 9 infant formula facilities. As a result of these actions, more U.S. facilities are eligible to export U.S. food and agricultural products to China than ever before.  USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service continues to update its export library, which provides additional guidance for U.S. meat and poultry meat exporters, including information related to the scope of products that may be exported to China, China’s labeling requirements, and other guidance.
 
China published on May 15 a new domestic standard for dairy permeate powder for human consumption that will allow imports of this product from the United States in the future.  In 2019, China imported nearly $12 billion of dairy products from around the world. 
 
China continues to implement its tariff exclusion process in an attempt to facilitate imports of U.S. commodities.  USDA continues to publish guidance for U.S. exporters seeking to participate in this process (USDA Global Agricultural Information Network).  USTR is continuing to process and where appropriate grant exclusions of products from China. USDA also is implementing its obligations under the agreement. 
Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said, “China is a market of tremendous potential for U.S. agriculture and these actions will help U.S. exporters expand their sales there.  We look forward to continued cooperative work with China on implementation of Phase One commitments, and immediate increases in U.S. exports of all manner of agricultural products.”

United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said, “China has worked with the United States to implement measures that will provide greater access for U.S. producers and exporters to China’s growing food and agricultural markets. Under President Trump’s leadership, we fully expect this agreement to be a success.” 


 CBP Seizes $252K of Counterfeit Currency in Cincinnati - U.S. Customs & Border Protection

CINCINNATI – In today’s economy a lot of items are bought and sold online, but hard currency is still used in day-to-day operations. When was the last time you took a quick glance at your money - a real hard look? Have you looked at the front and back? Have you looked for the security features? Just last year more than $100 million of counterfeit currency was exchanged.  

In order to stop the spread of counterfeit currency, U.S. Customs and Border Protection work to stop shipments with fake cash. One shipment of counterfeit currency that will not make its destination was seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at an Express Consignment Operations hub in Cincinnati on May 13. In total CBP seized $252,300.

The shipment arrived from Shenzhen, China, headed for Guthrie, Oklahoma. The parcel was selected for examination and an x-ray showed an image consistent with bundles of money. When the parcel was opened, officers found what was later confirmed as counterfeit currency. The currency was printed by what appeared to be a high end printer on regular paper and not washed/bleached currency. Additionally, the currency number was the same for every bill, and on the back of the bill there was foreign writing in the location where one of the security features would exist. There were 25 plastic bags of money, and each plastic bag had an average of 100 bills each - some had more. A total of 2,523 $100 bills were located within the bags for a total of $252,300.

"Our officers work hard 24-7 to protect America from numerous threats," said Cincinnati Port Director Richard Gillespie. "Especially during this time of uncertainty, economic security is of vital importance to our nation. Our dedicated officers and our partnership with the Secret Service kept this counterfeit currency from entering into the U.S. economy."

Counterfeit money like this, described as Foreign Writing Notes, is a violation of federal law and is considered contraband. These Foreign Writing Notes have been seized and turned over to the United States Secret Service. Counterfeit money like this is sometimes classified as motion picture, foreign writing notes, and is a violation of federal law and the violator can be arrested.

“The counterfeit currency seized by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency highlights our outstanding partnership,” said Glenn Dennis, Special Agent in Charge, Secret Service Oklahoma Field Office.  “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to disrupt criminal groups that target our citizens, businesses and the security of the United States financial system.”

“The Secret Service is proud to work with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency to combat the threat of counterfeit currency and to safeguard the U.S. financial infrastructure,” said Yvonne Dicristoforo, Special Agent in Charge, Secret Service Cincinnati Field Office.” The Secret Service and our law enforcement partners continue to adapt to maintain our level of success in stopping criminal acts and actors.”

According to the Secret Service, “Foreign Writing” notes have been recorded as successfully passed in every major city in the U.S. and at both small and large retailers. Special Agents and Investigative Analysts from around the country will continue to work closely with state and local law enforcement partners to minimize risks by informing the public and apprehending those responsible for passing counterfeit. Both consumers and retailers can protect themselves from inadvertently receiving a Motion Picture or Foreign Writing notes by quickly glancing at the note to ensure it does not read “For Motion Picture Use Only” or display bright pink Chinese characters.


 Probable Economic Effect of Providing Duty-Free Treatment for Currently Dutiable Imports from Kenya 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 Kenya.

The investigation, U.S.-Kenya Trade Agreement: Advice on the Probable Economic Effect of Providing Duty-free Treatment for Currently Dutiable Imports, was requested by the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) in a letter received on March 17, 2020.

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 Kenya 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 2020 and trade data for the year 2019.

In addition, as requested, the USITC will prepare an assessment of the probable economic effects of eliminating tariffs on imports from Kenya 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 September 16, 2020.

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.  The USITC will hold a public hearing in connection with the investigation on July 7, 2020.  Because COVID-19 mitigation measures are in effect, the public hearing will be held via Go to Meeting. 

Information about how to participate in the hearing will be posted on the Commission’s website at (https://usitc.gov/research_and_analysis/what_we_are_working_on.htm).  Requests to appear at the hearing should be filed no later than 5:15 p.m. on June 10, 2020, with the Secretary,

U.S. International Trade Commission, 500 E Street SW, Washington, DC 20436.  See below for important information regarding filing a request to appear at a USITC hearing.

The USITC also welcomes written submissions for the record.  Written submissions should be addressed to the Secretary of the Commission and should be submitted no later than 5:15 p.m. on July 14, 2020. All written submissions, except for confidential business information, will be available for public inspection.  See below for important information regarding the filing of written submissions for USITC investigations.

IMPORTANT:  All filings, including requests to appear at the hearing and written submissions, must be made through the Commission’s Electronic Document Information System (EDIS, https://edis.usitc.gov). No in-person paper-based filings or paper copies of any electronic filings will be accepted until further notice. Persons with questions regarding electronic filing should contact the Office of the Secretary, Docket Services Division (EDIS3Help@usitc.gov), or consult the Commission’s Handbook on Filing Procedures.


 Department of Commerce Asks for Public Input on Section 232 Steel and Aluminum Exclusion Process - Department of Commerce

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) is seeking public comments on how to improve the exclusion process for tariffs and quotas imposed on steel and aluminum imports under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 (“Section 232”). The notice of inquiry, which went on public display today at the Federal Register, states that BIS will accept comment submissions from May 26, 2020 through July 10, 2020.

“The Department of Commerce is continually looking for ways to improve the exclusion process for Section 232 tariffs and quotas,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “We want these critical national security measures to be applied effectively while avoiding unnecessary impacts on downstream American industries.”

Since the tariffs and quotas for steel and aluminum were instituted in 2018, Commerce has developed a process for manufacturers to request exclusions from the tariffs and quotas if those products cannot be produced in a sufficient quantity or quality in the U.S. or for national security reasons. The exclusion process also allows domestic steel and aluminum producers to object to an exclusion request by demonstrating they can provide the steel or aluminum item subject to the exclusion request, in a satisfactory quantity and quality. The Department conducts a thorough analysis of each exclusion request, objection, rebuttal, and surrebuttal it receives. This analysis assesses, on a case-by-case basis, whether the article at issue is produced in the United States in a sufficient and reasonably available amount and of a satisfactory quality. All decisions are available on publicly available websites.

In the notice of inquiry, BIS is seeking public input on a number of topics related to the exclusion process including the appropriateness of the information requested and considered in applying the exclusion criteria and the process employed in rendering decisions on requests for exclusions.

Comments may be submitted to the Federal rulemaking portal (www.regulations.gov).

The regulations.gov ID is: BIS-2020-0012. Commenters should refer to RIN 0694-XC058 in all comments and in the subject line of e-mail comments. Rebuttal comments will be accepted until August 10, 2020. Rebuttal comments may only address issues raised in comments filed on or before July 10, 2020.


CBP in San Juan Seizes Shipment of Counterfeit Alloy Wheels - U.S. Customs & Border Protection

Fake alloy wheels can become a significant safety problem for drivers

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) San Juan Field Operations announced Tuesday the seizure of a shipment consisting of 844 counterfeit alloy car wheels imported into the island.   The estimated manufacturer suggested retail price (MSRP) of all the counterfeit products seized is approximately $238,000, had the goods been genuine. 

“Purchasing knock-offs of high-end, high-demand products online does have an impact on the local economy,” indicated Leida Colon, Assistant Director of Field Operations for Trade.  “Counterfeit automobile parts represent a significant safety issue for drivers who transit the islands roads and highways.” 

According to car industry publications, the use of fake wheel rims can cause serious problems to drivers, as these products often do not pass the industry safety standards.   When tested these fake wheels could not pass safety testing on potholes, a common occurrence in local roads.  

The CBP San Juan Field Office, which comprises ports in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, has also seized counterfeit air bags, fog lights and tires among others items.

“We caution car owners to be extremely careful when making purchases online.  The cheaper price is often deceiving, and consumers are unaware of the real threats posed by inferior automobile parts,” added Mrs. Colon. 

The sale of counterfeit goods robs legitimate businesses of revenue, robs American workers of jobs, and poses health and safety threats to U.S. consumers. Oftentimes, the proceeds from counterfeit merchandise sales supports other nefarious and illicit businesses.

CBP has an aggressive Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) enforcement program, through which CBP targets and seizes imports of counterfeit and pirated goods, and enforces exclusion orders on patent-infringing and other IPR goods.

Despite these efforts, the internet has made it easy to find, purchase, and ship items from almost anywhere in the world. With a high demand for well-known brands, many online vendors sell counterfeit products online, infringing on various trademark holder’s rights and revenues.

CBP has established an educational initiative at U.S. airports and online in order to raise consumer awareness and conscientiousness about the consequences and dangers that are often associated with the purchase of counterfeit and pirated goods.  Information about the Truth Behind Counterfeits public awareness campaign can be found at www.cbp.gov/fakegoodsrealdangers
 
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