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On Monday, October 14, 2019, President Trump announced that the U.S. will increase steel tariffs to 50% as a sanction against Turkey’s military advance into Syria last week.  The steel tariffs were originally imposed at 25% under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 in March, 2018.  In August, 2018, President Trump raised

On October 2, 2019, the World Trade Organization (“WTO”) awarded the U.S. the largest arbitration award in the WTO’s history, $7.5 billion annually, in retaliation for the unlawful EU subsidization of Airbus.  The award comes after nearly 15 years of litigation at the WTO where the U.S. successfully argued that the EU and four of its member states conferred more than $18 billion to Airbus in subsidized financing.

As retaliation, the U.S. will impose an additional 10 percent duty on airplanes from France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom, as well as an additional 25 percent duty on certain goods including single malt Irish and Scotch whiskies, coffee from Germany, cheeses from several countries, and certain garments from the United Kingdom.   The retaliatory tariffs will likely take effect on October 18, 2019 and will be “continually re-evaluate{d}. . . based on {U.S.} discussions with the EU.”  In selecting the goods that will be affected by the retaliatory tariffs, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative explained that the tariffs are intended to most heavily impact imports from France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom, the Member States that provided Airbus with the disputed subsidies.

Meanwhile, tariff threats also loom over the U.S. in a parallel WTO case regarding the illegal subsidization of Boeing in the U.S.  The global trade regulator is expected within six-to-eight months to authorize the EU to impose its own retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods. In April, the EU published a preliminary list of U.S. products to be considered for countermeasures. Ahead of the WTO’s ruling on its case regarding the subsidization of Boeing, the EU might choose to revoke prior settlements with the U.S. in other WTO cases, which would effectively create tariffs on approximately $4 billion worth of U.S. imports into the EU.
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On July 10, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer announced that his office will investigate under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 (“Section 301”) whether France’s new digital tax law unfairly targets American businesses and restricts American commerce.  Section 301 affords the USTR broad authority to investigate and respond to unfair trade practices of

Last week, China amended a draft of a proposed foreign-investment law in an effort to address global concern over forced technology transfers.  The new law, which bans officials from divulging corporate secrets, was approved by the Chinese legislature on Friday.  The amendments were made shortly before the law was put to a vote and are

U.S. Reps. Terri Sewell (D-AL) and Fred Upton (R-MI) on Wednesday introduced legislation (H.R. 1710) that would preclude President Trump from imposing  Section 232 tariffs on imported automobiles and automotive parts until the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) conducts “a study of the economic well-being, health, and vitality of the United States auto-motive

On January 15, the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) revoked McDonald’s registered trademark, “Big Mac.”   The name “Big Mac” had been protected in the EU for more than 20 years under international classes 29, 30, and 42 for foods, sandwiches, and services of franchise restaurants, respectively.  Trademarks, which provide legal protections for names, among other things, can be extremely valuable assets for businesses and protect consumers in their purchasing decisions.  The January 15 decision will likely create some concern, if not confusion, for international businesses in how they might protect their brands in major markets.  McDonald’s quickly announced that it plans to appeal the decision, which is set against a backdrop of US-EU trade negotiations and a recent increased focus on intellectual property in trade negotiations.

In its decision, EUIPO found that the evidence McDonald’s provided to prove the genuine use of the name “Big Mac” in the EU, including websites, posters, packing, and affidavits from company representatives in Germany, France, and the UK, was not sufficient.   EUIPO said about the websites, “it could not be concluded whether, or how, a purchase could be made or an order could be placed.”  In addition, the regulating body took issue with brochures because there had been no evidence provided as to whom the brochures were given or how they were dispersed.  The administrative decision also discussed that although some evidence was provided of use, McDonald’s did not prove the extent of use of its mark.

The case to cancel the international fast food giant’s protection was brought by an Irish fast food chain, Supermac’s.  Patrick McDonagh, the managing director of Supermac’s, stated that the intention of the case was to “shine a light on the use of trademark bullying.” 
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On Wednesday, the European Parliament voted 571-to-53 to ban certain single use plastic items from the EU by 2021.  The legislation is aimed at reducing marine pollution and was drafted in May 2018 by the European Commission.  The Commission estimates that more than 80 percent of marine litter is plastics and that the items considered

On October 17, President Trump announced that the United States may withdraw from a 144-year-old international postal agreement.

The Universal Postal Union (“UPU”), established by the Treaty of Bern of 1874, is an agency of the United Nations that facilitates postal cooperation between governments and regulates cross-border traffic of international mail.

The Trump Administration fears that U.S. businesses are disadvantaged by policies of the UPU that allow Chinese businesses to ship a variety of goods to the United States at “unfairly low prices.” The administration is also concerned that current policies of the UPU facilitate the shipping of counterfeit or otherwise illegal goods to the United States.

The UPU allows developing countries, including China, to ship small packages at lower rates than developed nations. The Trump Administration is seeking changes to the treaty that would allow countries to set their own rates for parcels weighing less than 4.4 lbs.  Under the current rules, small packages shipped from China to the U.S. are discounted between 40 and 70 percent.  It is estimated that subsidized rates for small packages from China cost the U.S. $300 million per year.
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