In July, France signed into law a tax, which targets companies with high digital revenues such as Facebook, Google, and Amazon.  On Monday, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (“USTR”) announced the conclusion of an investigation into France’s digital tax under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 (“Section 301”).  The USTR found

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has announced a hearing date and related deadlines for review of certain countries’ ongoing eligibility under the United States’ Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program.  We previously wrote about these GSP reviews here, which may result in the United States’ decision to suspend duty-free GSP benefits

First Set of Exclusions Set to Expire December 28, 2019

On October 28, 2019, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) announced plans to begin considering extensions of up to one year for certain previously-granted product exclusions from Section 301 tariffs on Chinese imports. From November 1 – November 30, USTR will accept comments for or against product exclusions that are set to expire December 28, 2019.

The relevant product exclusions were granted December 28, 2018 in USTR’s initial set of exclusions from Section 301 duties on Chinese imports that took effect July 6, 2018. The 25 percent tariff covered more than 800 tariff lines, representing approximately $34 billion in annual trade value. In its December 28 action, USTR granted exclusions for more than 1,000 specific products classified within a tariff-covered 8-digit HTSUS subheading.

USTR subsequently issued seven more rounds of product exclusions from its July 6, 2018 tariff action (all expiring one year from the date of publication in the Federal Register) and continues considering exclusion requests for subsequent tariff actions. While additional extension request opportunities are anticipated going forward, the current opportunity only covers exclusions granted on December 28, 2018.

As detailed in a draft Federal Register Notice, USTR will evaluate the possible extension of each exclusion on a case-by-case basis. USTR has indicated it will focus its evaluation on whether the product under consideration remains only available from China. USTR will also consider whether additional duties would result in severe economic harm to U.S. interests. Additionally, USTR has asked commenters to address:
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At the WTO General Council’s meeting this week in Geneva, the debate over developing country rights at the WTO came to a head.  The United States has recently been especially outspoken in its criticism of developing country status for WTO members, which entitles the declared developing country to certain exemptions, longer timetables for implementation of commitments, and other flexibilities under WTO agreements to assist with integration into the world trading system – generally known as “special and differential treatment.”  Special and differential treatment provisions are found in virtually all WTO agreements, ranging from commitments to increase trade opportunities for developing country members, to requirements to protect developing country interests, to rules allowing for flexible implementation, transitional time periods, and technical assistance.  For example, developing countries may extend for two additional years their own safeguard actions to restrict imports causing injury to their domestic industries, and are generally exempt from the application of other members’ safeguard actions.  Since the WTO’s creation in 1995, however, the WTO has not specified any criteria or process for determining developing country status, allowing members to self-declare their status without meeting any analytical requirements.

According to the United States, this lack of discipline has led to unpredictable and illogical results, with some of the world’s wealthiest and fastest developing (in terms of economic, social, and other indicators) – and often most trade-distorting – countries putting themselves as the same category as the WTO’s least-developed members in order to strategically or uniformly avoid additional commitments.  Some of the examples cited by the United States of those WTO members seen to be unreasonably declaring themselves as developing include China, India, Singapore, Israel, Mexico, Turkey, Chile, Indonesia, South Africa, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar.  As the United States explained in a WTO communication issued in February 2019:

Simply put, self-declaration has severely damaged the negotiating arm of the WTO by making differentiation among Members near impossible.  By demanding the same flexibilities as much smaller, poorer Members, export powerhouses and other relatively advanced Members . . . create asymmetries that ensure that ambition levels in WTO negotiations remain far too weak to sustain viable outcomes.  Members cannot find mutually agreeable trade-offs or build coalitions when significant players use self-declared development status to avoid making meaningful offers.  Self-declaration also dilutes the benefit that the {least-developed countries} and other Members with specific needs tailored to the relevant discipline could enjoy if they were the only ones with the flexibility.

The United States’ February communication also proposed that the General Council adopt a new approach that would preclude special and differential treatment “in current and future WTO negotiations” for countries that fall into at least one of four categories: members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD); one of the G20 countries; classified as “high income” by the World Bank; or account for “no less than 0.5 per cent of global merchandise trade (imports and exports).” 
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Last April, the United States Trade Representative (“USTR”) initiated an investigation to enforce U.S. rights stemming from a World Trade Organization (“WTO”) ruling concerning the European Union’s (“EU”) provision of illegal subsidies on the manufacture of large civil aircraft.

In the notice initiating that investigation, USTR proposed imposing additional ad valorem duties of up to

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

Effective May 10, 2019 importations of merchandise covered under the Section 301 third tranche, manufactured in China and entered into the U.S., are subject to the increase in additional duties from 10 to 25%.  However, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection updated guidance, the increased duties of 25% will not apply to goods a)

On April 25, 2019, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) issued its 2019 “Special 301 Report” on inadequate protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights by the United States’ trading partners.  USTR has issued a Special 301 Report each year since 1989 pursuant to section 182 of the Trade Act of 1974.  The Special 301 Report reflects the culmination of a public comment and hearing process allowing all interested parties – domestic businesses and industries, civil society groups, trade associations, think tanks, and other stakeholders – to identify foreign countries and expose the laws, policies, and practices that fail to provide adequate and effective IP protection and enforcement for U.S. inventors, creators, brands, manufacturers, and service providers.  The Special 301 Report and process provides an important opportunity for IP-intensive U.S. industries to highlight adverse cross-border IP rights issues and help shape the Administration’s priorities as it engages with trading partners on IP and related market access issues.

Countries that are identified as falling short with respect to protection, enforcement, and market access for IP-intensive industries are listed in the Special 301 Report in one of three ways.  Countries with the most egregious acts, policies, or practices that have the greatest adverse impact on U.S. companies and products are listed Priority Foreign Countries (“PFC”).  PFCs are subject to investigation and potential trade sanctions such as tariffs, quotas, or other measures.  A country may not be listed as a PFC under the law if it is entering into good faith negotiations or making significant progress toward providing and enforcing IP rights.  Notably, USTR may designate a country as a PFC even if
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In response to a long running dispute with the European Union (EU) over subsidies to Airbus, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has proposed additional tariffs on certain products of the EU covering approximately $11 billion in trade.  The proposed list covers 317 tariff subheadings and includes fish, cheese, olive oil, wine, leather handbags, textiles, wool