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Jay Smith

Jay Smith is of counsel in the Washington office. He joined the firm after several years as a professor of political science and international affairs, during which he specialized in international trade policy and international dispute settlement. His practice in the International and Litigation groups draws on this academic and policy experience.

He is currently helping clients develop and implement strategies with regard to the Trump Administration’s recent trade actions, including pursuing country exemptions and product exclusions to the recent steel and aluminum tariffs imposed under Section 232, and product exclusions to the proposed Section 301 tariffs.

On March 28, 2023, the United States and Japan entered into a bilateral agreement, titled the Agreement Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of Japan on Strengthening Critical Minerals Supply Chains (“U.S.-Japan Critical Minerals Agreement” or “Agreement”). 

Context and Significance of the U.S.-Japan Critical Minerals Agreement

Prompting this

Bottom Line

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador submitted bills to Congress intended to further curtail the rights of private investors in the mining sector and beyond.  As part of his resource nationalism agenda, on display in the energy sector at first, López Obrador has also nationalized lithium reserves and created a state‑owned company to lead development of those reserves.  The new bills, which target other minerals and concessions in the country, have been met with shock and disappointment.  If passed as drafted, and to the extent the proposed amendments are implemented to restrict vested rights arising from pre-existing mining and potentially other concessions, these bills may result in the expropriation of foreign investments and other breaches of Mexico’s obligations under applicable international investment agreements.

Legislative Process

On Tuesday March 28th, López Obrador sent to the Chamber of Deputies a bill seeking to reform the Mining Law, the National Water Law, the General Law of Ecological Equilibrium and Environmental Protection, and the General Law for Prevention and Integral Management of Waste Residues (the “Mining Bill”).  

The Mining Bill will be discussed and reviewed by four Committees in the lower house – three of them presided over by López Obrador’s party, MORENA, or allied parties – giving it a relatively easy path forward.  The Mining Bill requires a simple majority to be approved, and MORENA and its allied parties have the required votes to pass it.  Considering that the current legislative session ends on April 30th, it is possible that the bill will move fast through the Chamber of Deputies.  

In the Senate, the Mining Bill might face some opposition but probably not enough to make substantial changes as most of the commissions where it will be discussed are also presided over by MORENA or its allies.

Around the same time, López Obrador also sent to the Chamber of Deputies a bill that includes sweeping changes to administrative regulations, including rules for concessions, permits and other authorizations, which could impact the mining, infrastructure and energy sectors, among others (the “Administrative Law Bill”).  While MORENA has enough votes to pass the Administrative Law Bill as well, it may face more resistance, particularly in the Senate.Continue Reading Mexico: Proposed Changes to Mining, Environmental, and Administrative Laws Increase Regulatory Risk, Impact Private Participation in Regulated Sectors, and Could Lead to Investment Claims

On November 1, 2022, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (“USTR”) published a questionnaire for interested parties to use in commenting on the effects of the tariffs imposed on Chinese imports under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 (“Section 301 Tariffs”). USTR issued the questionnaire pursuant to its October 17, 2022 notice initiating the second phase of its statutory four-year review of the Section 301 Tariffs. Questionnaire responses may address the tariffs’ impact on the whole economy, specific sectors and industries, or individual tariff headings. Responses may be submitted between November 15, 2022, and January 17, 2023. This process offers a new opportunity for companies to make a record with the Biden Administration regarding the future of the Section 301 actions, including as to specific product categories that should not be subject to duties if the tariffs remain in force.

Background

The United States imposed the Section 301 Tariffs after determining in March 2018 that China’s technology transfer and intellectual property policies and practices harmed U.S. companies. Between July 2018 and September 2019, the United States applied four tranches of tariffs on over $360 billion in Chinese imports.

The administration is defending the List 3 and List 4A tariffs against legal challenges pending before the U.S. Court of International Trade. On April 1, 2022, the court remanded those lists to USTR for further explanation or reconsideration, and USTR filed its remand determination responding to significant comments on the List 3 and List 4A tariffs on August 1, 2022. The court is now evaluating the sufficiency of that remand determination.

Under the statute, Section 301 Tariffs expire after four years unless a representative of a domestic industry that benefited from the tariffs submits a written request for continuation.[1] Accordingly, on May 3, 2022, USTR initiated its statutory four-year review of the Section 301 Tariffs in advance of their expiration beginning on July 6, 2022. (See our prior alert.) Prior to launching the statutorily mandated review, the Biden Administration’s principal action with respect to the Section 301 Tariffs was to reinstate a limited set of previously expired product exclusions. Those 352 reinstated exclusions are now set to expire on December 31, 2022.Continue Reading USTR Seeks Public Comment in Second Phase of Four-Year Review of Necessity for Section 301 Tariffs on Chinese Imports

On September 8 and 9, top trade officials of the United States and the other Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (“IPEF” or “Framework”) partner countries—Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam—launched formal negotiations in Los Angeles.

This marked the first in-person ministerial-level meeting since the IPEF launched on May 23, 2022 and follows three informal meetings since May 2022, the latest event being the virtual ministerial on July 26-27, discussed in detail in our previous post.

The Los Angeles ministerial involved intensive discussions on what to include in the scope of the Framework. Ultimately, the IPEF partners reached consensus on ministerial statements for each of the four IPEF framework pillars: Trade, Supply Chain, Clean Economy, and Fair Economy. All 14 IPEF partners have joined three of the pillars, and 13 joined the fourth—with just India opting out of the Trade pillar. While this near unanimous support for the four pillars is certainly a positive sign, the real work begins now.

This blog post summarizes how the ministerial statements characterize the four pillars and outlines next steps for the Framework and key remaining questions.

Takeaways from the Ministerial Statements

The ministerial statements confirmed the four pillars of negotiation and provided added clarity on the scope and content of each pillar. While the statements add little to the substance, they indicate a political commitment among the partners to the Framework.Continue Reading IPEF Partners Adopt Ministerial Statement and Negotiation Objectives

On July 26-27, 2022, the Biden Administration hosted a two-day virtual meeting with top trade officials from the 13 other partners of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (“IPEF” or “Framework”)—Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. This was the first ministerial meeting since the 13 initial participants[1] agreed on May 23, 2022 to launch “collective discussions towards future negotiations” on the Framework. The IPEF currently focuses on four “pillars”: (1) Trade; (2) Supply Chains; (3) Clean Energy, Decarbonization, and Infrastructure; and (4) Tax and Anti-Corruption. Touted as a “21st century economic arrangement designed to tackle 21st century economic challenges,” the IPEF is said to offer what Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo calls a “innovative and flexible approach,” and is “internationally designed not to be a ‘same old, same old’ traditional free trade agreement.”

The Framework’s novel approach, however, has raised a flurry of unanswered questions. Key U.S. stakeholders, for instance, have questioned the Biden Administration’s decision not to discuss tariff reductions or market access as part of the IPEF negotiations. Concerns have been raised about the enforceability of any agreements concluded among Framework partners. Potential agreements within each pillar remain largely unknown or undisclosed, even though the Framework partners have spent months engaged in a “scoping exercise” to define the components of each pillar.

This latest ministerial meeting added little clarity. No joint statement was released at the end of the meeting, suggesting that more remains to be done before formal, text-based negotiations begin. But as negotiators approach the one-year anniversary of President Biden’s announcement of the initiative at the October 2021 East Asia Summit meeting, there is growing expectation of more concrete outcomes. The dates for the next ministerial meeting have not been formally announced, though informal reports speculate that the Framework partners may hold the next meeting in September 2022, possibly as the first in-person ministerial.

This alert outlines the scope and objectives of the IPEF’s four pillars, the progress to date and next steps, key remaining questions, and stakeholder reactions thus far.Continue Reading Biden Administration Hosts the First Indo-Pacific Economic Framework Ministerial: Updates, Outlook, and Remaining Questions

On July 14, 2022, the U.S. Department of Commerce (“Commerce”) issued a request for a range of additional factual information in connection with the agency’s ongoing circumvention inquiries into solar cells and modules from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam that employ inputs from mainland China.[1]  The deadline to respond is July 21st.

In the July 14 memorandum, Commerce seeks information about the:  (1) amount of investment necessary to construct and start-up certain facilities, (2) non-financial barriers (e.g., access to inputs, qualified technical employees, technologies, research and development, etc.) that companies typically face to establish and begin certain operations, and (3) research and development (“R&D”) expenses associated with conducting certain operations.  These types of facilities/operations involved in:

  • refining silicon into solar-grade polysilicon,
  • producing ingots from solar-grade polysilicon,
  • producing wafers from solar-grade ingots,
  • producing solar cells from wafers,
  • producing solar modules from solar cells, and
  • the same operations and products as foreign producers and exporters responding to Commerce’s solar circumvention inquiries. 

Continue Reading Commerce Requests Factual Information in Solar Circumvention Inquiries on Level of Investment, Non-Financial Barriers, and Research and Development Expenses

On July 1, 2022, the U.S. Department of Commerce (“Commerce”) issued proposed rules implementing President Biden’s emergency declaration to provide temporary tariff relief on certain imports of solar cells and modules from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam.[1] Commerce has provided the public with a 30-day period to comment on the proposed rules.

If enacted

Presidential Action Triggered by Crisis in the U.S. Solar Industry

In recent months, the U.S. solar industry has been in the midst of an existential crisis, triggered by the threatened imposition of retroactive and future tariffs on a significant portion of U.S. imports. That crisis began on April 1, 2022, when the Department of Commerce (“Commerce”) initiated an inquiry to determine whether solar cells and modules from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam are circumventing antidumping (“AD”) and countervailing duty (“CVD”) orders on solar cells from China. Solar cells from these countries generally accounted for approximately 80% of U.S. solar module imports in 2020.[1] If Commerce finds circumvention, solar cells and modules from the four target countries could not only be subject to combined AD/CVD tariffs approaching 250%, but Commerce’s regulations also allow for the agency to apply these tariffs retroactively to merchandise entering on or after April 1, 2022 (and potentially as far back as November 4, 2021). This threat of AD/CVD tariffs triggered a steep decrease in imports of solar cells and modules from Southeast Asia, and caused parts of the U.S. solar industry to come to a stand-still, furthering domestic reliance on coal.[2] Given this paralysis in the solar industry, lawmakers and others urged the President to provide relief from potential AD/CVD tariffs.[3]

The President’s Response

On June 6, 2022, President Biden issued a declaration of emergency (the “Declaration”)[4] pursuant to section 318(a) of the Tariff Act of 1930, as amended (19 U.S.C. § 1318), and issued a determination pursuant to section 303 of the Defense Production Act of 1950, as amended (50 U.S.C. § 4533) (“the DPA Determination”)[5]. The Declaration finds that an emergency exists “with respect to the threats to the availability of sufficient electricity generation capacity” and authorizes Commerce to issue a moratorium on tariffs on solar cells and modules from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam for up to a 24-month period, while the DPA Determination aims to “expand the domestic production capability” for solar cells during this 24-month period. The Declaration itself does not prevent the imposition of tariffs on imported solar cells and modules from the Southeast Asian countries, rather it authorizes the Secretary of Commerce to “take appropriate action” to permit the duty-free importation of solar cells and modules for 24 months after the Declaration’s issue date.[6]Continue Reading President Acts to Prevent Import Tariffs on Solar Cells and Modules from Southeast Asia

On May 3, 2022, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (“USTR”) announced that it is initiating a statutory four-year review of necessity for the tariffs imposed on Chinese imports under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 (“Section 301 Tariffs”). USTR’s review will examine whether to extend the tariffs currently in place on over $360 billion in Chinese imports.

Background

The Section 301 Tariffs were imposed based on the U.S. Administration’s determination in March 2018 that China’s technology transfer and intellectual property policies are harming U.S. companies. Between July 2018 and September 2019, the United States imposed four tranches of escalating tariffs on imports from China.

  • USTR imposed additional tariffs of 25 percent ad valorem on $34 billion of Chinese imports, effective July 6, 2018 (“List 1”).
  • USTR imposed duties of 25 percent ad valorem on an additional $16 billion of Chinese imports, effective August 23, 2018 (“List 2”).
  • USTR subsequently “modified” these tariff actions by imposing additional duties on supplemental lists of products in September 2018 (“List 3”) and September 2019 (“List 4A”).

By statute, the Section 301 Tariffs are set to expire four years after the tariffs were imposed, absent a written request for continuation submitted during the final sixty days of the four-year period by a representative of the domestic industry that has benefited from the tariffs.[1] The List 1 tariffs are set to expire July 6, 2022, and the List 2 tariffs are set to expire August 23, 2022. If a request is filed, the statute directs USTR to conduct a “review of necessity” regarding any extension of the tariffs.

First Phase of the Four-Year Review

USTR’s four-year review will proceed in two phases. In this first phase of the review process, USTR is notifying representatives of domestic industries that have benefited from the Section 301 Tariffs of the possible termination of the tariffs and of the opportunity to request a continuation of the tariffs.Continue Reading USTR Initiates Four-Year Review of Necessity for Section 301 Tariffs on Chinese Imports

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Since entry into force of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (“USMCA”) in July 2020, the United States has brought two known complaints against Mexico under the Agreement’s Facility-Specific Rapid Response Labor Mechanism (“RRM”), concerning allegations that workers at two different factories in Mexico were being denied their fundamental right to organize.

The Office of the