U.S. Issues Enhanced Sanctions on Russian Energy Sector

As required under recent sanctions legislation, the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) recently issued an updated Directive 4 that will expand sectoral sanctions on the Russian energy industry.

The new rules, which apply to projects initiated on or after January 29, 2018, will bar persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction from providing goods, services, or technology in support of exploration or production for deepwater, Arctic offshore, or shale oil anywhere in the world if a party subject to Directive 4 sectoral sanctions has a 33 percent or more ownership interest or owns a majority of the voting interests in the project. Continue Reading

New Sanctions Placed on Trade with Cuba

On Thursday November 9th,  the Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) published new regulations in the Federal Register executing June’s National Security Presidential Memorandum (“NSPM”) regarding U.S. sanctions against Cuba.  (See our previous post on the NSPM here).  The State Department and Bureau of Industry and Security (“BIS”) also published complementary rules giving effect to the changes in the Cuba sanctions.  The rules became effective with their publication in the Federal Register.

The primary purpose of the rule changes is to prevent commerce between the U.S. and Cuba from benefiting the Cuban military.  The State Department’s regulation includes a new Cuba Restricted List, which lists parties deemed to be under control of or acting on behalf of the Cuban military, intelligence, or security services personnel.  Continue Reading

Congress Presses-On for Temporary Tariff Relief on Non-U.S. Made Goods by Year’s End

The House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee held a hearing on October 25th to discuss the new Miscellaneous Tariff Bill Process – overseen by the U.S. International Trade Commission with input from other federal agencies – to reduce temporarily tariffs on products not made in the United States.  The largely non-controversial hearing was a first step toward paving the way for Congressional consideration of a bill by the end of the year to implement recommendations made by the ITC in its final MTB report issued in August.  Action on the bill in the Senate Finance Committee is anticipated next. Continue Reading

Commerce Continues China’s Status as a Non-Market Economy

On October 26, 2017, the Department of Commerce  announced the results of an investigation concluding that China is a non-market economy (“NME”) country for purposes of Commerce’s antidumping analysis.  Commerce’s decision continues the long-standing practice of the agency with respect to the antidumping methodology it applies to cases involving China.

Commerce was spurred to review its position on China’s NME status, last addressed in 2006, following the December 11, 2016 change in China’s Protocol of Accession to the World Trade Organization (“WTO”).  By way of background, the WTO Antidumping Agreement permits WTO member countries to impose duties on dumped imports.  Those duties are calculated as either the difference between the imported product’s export price and the comparable home market price, or the difference between the export price and a constructed value based on the product’s cost of production.  Sometimes, however, those home market prices or costs of production do not reflect market forces, particularly in NME countries. Continue Reading

Secondary Sanctions Targeting Russia’s Defense and Intelligence Sectors Move Closer to Implementation

Last Friday the State Department belatedly released a list of 39 Russian entities that operate as part of Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors (the full list is below).  Congress required the Trump Administration to produce a list of such parties as part of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which became law in August 2017.  Under Section 231 of CAATSA, persons that engage in “significant” transactions with the designated firms could be subject to a menu of secondary sanctions starting on January 29, 2018.    Continue Reading

Commerce Announces Preliminary Determination in Antidumping Investigation of Aluminum Foil from China and Determines that China Continues to Be a Non-Market Economy

On Friday, October 27, 2017, the Department of Commerce announced its affirmative preliminary determination in the antidumping duty investigation on aluminum foil from China.  The Department calculated preliminary dumping margins of 96.81 and 162.24 percent for the two mandatory respondents under investigation.  Additionally, the Department set the rate for the PRC-wide entity at 162.24 percent and the rate all other companies found to be separate from the PRC-wide entity at 138.16 percent. Continue Reading

OFAC Extends Sanctions Relief for Belarussian Conglomerates

Today the Office Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) extended sanctions relief for nine Belarussian conglomerates, including Belneftekhim. OFAC has authorized transactions with the listed Belarussian Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs) since October 2015 through a series of temporary general licenses. Today’s General License No. 2D extends the sanctions relief through April 30, 2018, subject to the restrictions outlined in the license.
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New Obstacles Emerge in NAFTA Negotiations

As the fourth round of NAFTA negotiations were completed in Washington on Tuesday, October 17, 2017, significant new obstacles to the trade talks are emerging.  As a result, the fifth round of talks has been postponed until mid-November.

Specifically, Canada and Mexico have rejected the U.S.’s proposals on the elimination of NAFTA dispute panels in AD/CVD decisions, dairy, automotive content, government procurement, country-specific rule of origin rules, and a sunset clause.

U.S. Trade Representative Lighthizer, Mexican Economy Minister Guajardo, and Canadian Foreign Minister Freeland noted in a joint statement that the extended timelines provide the countries Continue Reading

India Stainless Steel Bar:  Commerce Reinstates Viraj and Venus Back Under Antidumping Duty Order

On October 18, 2017, the U.S. Department of Commerce published its preliminary determination that two Indian bar producers, Viraj Profiles Ltd. (“Viraj”) and the Venus Group (Venus Wire Industries Pvt. Ltd. and its affiliates Hindustan Inox Ltd., Precision Metals and Sieve Manufacturers (India) Pvt. Ltd.), have resumed dumping stainless steel bar into the U.S. market and that both companies should be reinstated back under the existing antidumping duty order on stainless steel bar from India.  Continue Reading

Evolution of Customs Audits and the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism: ISA Members Beware!

Since the advent of the Centers of Excellence and Expertise (CEE’s), US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has moved its audit function to the Centers and is focusing on single issue audits rather than the focused assessments previously conducted by regulatory audit.

Targeted single issue audits can be misleading.  CBP typically sends an audit questionnaire covering potential issues of non-compliance.  The questionnaires are more comprehensive than the CBP cover letter accompanying them.  In addition, Importer Self-Assessment (ISA) participants, who are exempt from Focused Assessments, are not exempt from the single issue audits.  ISA members and importers considering joining the program should consider whether the increased audit function obviates some of the benefits.

In addition, CBP has announced that in 2018 it will be integrating security and trade compliance and plans on merging ISA and the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism program by 2019.  More on the merging of anti-terrorism initiatives and trade compliance to come.

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