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On Friday, May 17, President Donald J. Trump issued a proclamation directing the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to negotiate trade agreements to address the national security threat posed by imports of foreign automobiles and certain automotive parts. The proclamation provides for 180 days of negotiations, delaying the decision on whether to impose import restrictions

On Sunday, May 5, U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted that the current 10% tariff on $200 billion in Chinese imports to the United States would increase to 25% on Friday, May 10. On Monday, United States Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer confirmed the administration’s plans, saying the tariff rate increase would take effect at 12:01

On January 31, President Donald J. Trump signed Executive Order 13858 entitled Strengthening Buy American Preferences for Infrastructure Projects. The Order is designed to strengthen the “Buy American principle” for Federal infrastructure spending by encouraging Federal funding recipients to use more American-made products in their infrastructure projects. “By signing this order today, we renew our commitment to an essential truth: It matters where something is made, and it matters very greatly,” said President Trump.

Specifically, the order directs the head of each executive department and agency administering a covered infrastructure program to “encourage recipients of new Federal financial assistance awards to use, to the greatest extent practicable, iron and aluminum as well as, steel, cement, and other manufactured products produced in the United States in every contract, subcontract, purchase order, or sub award that is chargeable against such Federal financial assistance award.” Covered programs include Federal financial assistance for a wide variety of U.S. infrastructure projects, from surface transportation and water infrastructure to broadband and cyber-security.

In addition to encouraging funding recipients to use domestic products in their projects, the new order also requires the head of each agency administering a covered program to identify in a report to the President opportunities to maximize the use of Buy American principles. The reports are due no later than May 31, 2019.

Thursday’s action is an attempt to close potential coverage gaps by extending Buy American principles to more taxpayer-financed federal infrastructure assistance programs. The executive order similarly seeks to expand the application of the Buy America procurement preferences to items not typically subject to existing Buy America laws, which are often limited to iron and steel products and materials. The “manufactured products” specifically identified in the executive order include non-ferrous metals, plastic and polymer materials like pipe, aggregates, glass and lumber.

The White House indicated this strengthened focus could result in billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars being redirected to American manufacturers.
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Background:
On Friday, July 6, 2018, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) announced a process for U.S. interests to obtain product-specific exclusions from tariffs on Chinese imports as a result of the U.S. investigation into, and response to, China’s IP practices (see attached Federal Register notice).  The duties, applied under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, took effect on July 6 and cover an annual trade value of approximately $34 billion.  In imposing the new tariffs, USTR focused on “products identified as benefiting from China’s industrial policies, including the ‘Made in China 2025’ program.”

A complete list of products – covering 818 tariff lines – currently subject to the new tariffs (at a rate of 25%) is available here.  USTR will consider excluding a particular product within a subheading (but not the tariff subheading as a whole) from the tariffs.  Note that USTR is currently considering / accepting public comment on an additional 284 proposed tariff lines.  Once finalized, the additional tariffs will likely be accompanied by a similar exclusion process.

In announcing the exclusion process, USTR indicated it received comments that specific products “were only available from China, that imposition of additional duties on the specific products would cause severe economic harm to a U.S. interest, and that the specific products were not strategically important or related to the ‘Made in China 2025’ program.”  The new exclusion process was designed to address those concerns.

Criteria:
USTR will accept requests from all interested persons, including trade associations.  Each request must specifically identify a particular product and provide supporting data as well as the rationale for the exclusion request.  Entities wishing to exclude more than one product must submit a separate request for each product.
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House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee Chairman Dave Reichert (R-WA) announced on Tuesday, July 11th that the Subcommittee will hold a hearing entitled “Modernization of the North American Free Trade Agreement” on Tuesday, July 18th.   The hearing will analyze whether NAFTA has been successful for the U.S. economy and job creation, with a focus on