Following President Trump’s announcement of his decision to delay the March 1, 2019 deadline to increase tariffs from 10% to 25% on $200 billion of Chinese goods (i.e., List 3 items), Ambassador Lighthizer testified before the House Ways and Means Committee about the progress that has been made on concluding a binding executive agreement with

One of the potential consequences of the U.S.-China trade dispute is that more companies may consider supply chain sourcing from third countries such as Mexico.   This may include direct sourcing in the third country or the processing of Chinese components into finished products in third countries prior to entry into the United States.  There are a number of issues to consider where the processing of Chinese products subject to section 301 duties occurs in third countries prior to importation in the United States.

For example, the imported Chinese components processed in a third country may nonetheless be subject to section 301 duties when imported into the United States unless they are “substantially transformed” into a new and different article of commerce in the third country.  This is a product-specific analysis and involves a review of components and production steps. Recently, the Court of International Trade ruled that mere assembly of foreign component parts does not constitute substantial transformation. (Energizer Battery Inc. v. United States, 190 F. Supp. 3d 1308 (Ct. Intl. Trade 2016). The decision noted that, “whether there has been a substantial transformation depends on whether there has been a change in the name or use of the components.”  The court focused not on whether “the components as imported have the form and function of the final product” but rather “whether the components have a pre-determined end-use at the time of importation.”  The court suggested that the imported parts would need to undergo “further work” beyond mere assembly to be considered substantially transformed.


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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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As China’s intellectual property practices continue on to be a centerpiece of the Trump Administration’s trade policy, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Senate Finance Committee Member Bill Nelson (D-Florida) on Friday urged U.S. Trade Representative Lighthizer to include strong copyright protections in U.S. trade agreements, including the new NAFTA.  Digital trade and intellectual property are both topics that the USTR has expected to address in the negotiations.

In February, the American Bar Association Section of Intellectual Property Law also requested that the new NAFTA require increased protections in trade secrets, trademarks, copyrights, and patents.   The proposals included: that Canada and Mexico establish criminal penalties for trade secrets violations similar to those in the U.S. Economic Espionage Act, an agreement that Mexico
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The Trump Administration is using an infrequently used provision of the trade laws, Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 to impose an additional 25% tariff on $50 billion worth of Chinese products imported into the U.S.  The proposed list covers 1300 tariff lines and includes medicaments, pumps and valves, machinery for the oil and gas, agriculture, food, beverage, and apparel industries, motors, generators, trucks, bulldozers, railway cars, automobiles, helicopters, airplanes, and boats, and consumer products such as dishwashers, microwaves, TV’s, and VCR’s. (see full list here)

The proposed list covers the following sectors (See blog post from March 21):

  • New advanced information technology
  • Automated machine tools and robotics
  • Aerospace and aeronautical equipment
  • Maritime equipment and high tech shipping
  • Modern rail transport equipment
  • New energy vehicles and equipment
  • Power equipment
  • Agricultural equipment
  • New materials
  • Biopharma and advanced medical products


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The Trump Administration is planning on dusting off another infrequently used provision of the trade laws, Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, to impose additional tariffs on apparel, footwear, electronics, and home goods manufactured in China and imported into the U.S.  The potential tariffs could reach between $30-$60 billion per year.  The Trump

Four days after President Trump signed a memorandum directing the U.S. Trade Representative (“USTR”) to determine whether to initiate a Section 301 investigation of Chinese laws, policies, practices, or actions that may be harming the intellectual property rights of U.S. persons, USTR Lighthizer formally announced the initiation of an investigation on August 18, 2017.

The public is encouraged to participate in the investigation by submitting comments and appearing at a public hearing in Washington, DC.  Comments and requests to appear at the hearing must be submitted by Thursday, September 28, 2017. The public hearing will be held in the main hearing room of the U.S. International Trade Commission (“USITC”) on Tuesday, October 10, 2017.
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