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John Veroneau is a Chambers-ranked international trade lawyer and co-chairs the firm's International Trade Practice Group. Having served in senior positions in both Executive and Legislative branches, he provides legal and strategic advice to clients on a broad range of international trade and other public policy matters.

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

International Trade, Public Policy (U.S.), Technology

On March 23, 2022, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (“USTR”) announced its decision to reinstate through December 31, 2022, 352 previously granted exclusions from tariffs imposed on Chinese imports under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 (“Section 301 Tariffs”). The reinstated exclusions are a subset of a limited group of 549 exclusions that were previously extended and thus were eligible for possible reinstatement, and it remains unclear if and when a broader exclusion process might be forthcoming.

Background

The Section 301 Tariffs are based on the U.S. Administration’s determination in March 2018 that China’s technology transfer and intellectual property (“IP”) policies are harming U.S. companies. Between July 2018 and September 2019, the United States imposed four escalating tranches of tariffs on imports from China. U.S. tariffs on over $360 billion in Chinese imports remain in place despite the “Phase One” agreement that the parties reached in January 2020.

For each of the four tranches or “Lists,” USTR established a process for requesting product-specific exclusions from the Section 301 Tariffs. In total, USTR granted over 2,200 exclusions. USTR also opened a process for submitting comments on whether to extend the duration of particular exclusions. Based on that process, USTR extended 549 exclusions spanning products covered by Lists 1 – 4, but most of these exclusions expired by December 31, 2020, with the remainder expiring on March 25 and April 18, 2021.

On October 8, 2021, days after USTR Katherine Tai announced that her office would open a “targeted” tariff exclusion process, USTR published a Federal Register notice inviting public comment on whether and how long USTR should reinstate 549 product exclusions that were granted and subsequently extended. USTR published on its website a list of all 549 exclusions. The notice indicated that USTR would focus on evaluating whether, despite imposition of the Section 301 Tariffs, “the particular product remains available only from China.” Additionally, USTR would consider whether reinstating an exclusion would “impact or result in severe economic harm to the commenter or other U.S. interests,” or affect the goal of obtaining the elimination of China’s problematic IP policies.

Reinstated Section 301 Tariff Exclusions

On March 23, 2022, USTR announced its decision to reinstate 352 product exclusions among those identified in its October 8, 2021 notice. USTR stated that its determination was based on public comments received as well as input from advisory committees and other U.S. agencies.

All reinstated exclusions are retroactive to import entries made on or after October 12, 2021, that are unliquidated or that are liquidated but remain protestable. The reinstated exclusions expire on December 31, 2022, though the notice provides that USTR “may consider further extensions as appropriate.”
Continue Reading USTR Reinstates Limited Exclusions from Tariffs on Chinese Imports

On March 11, 2022, President Biden announced that the United States, acting in coordination with the European Union (“EU”) and leaders of major economies belonging to the Group of Seven (“G7”), would begin taking steps to revoke most-favored-nation (or “MFN”) trade status for Russia. MFN trade status—known as Permanent Normal Trade Relations (“PNTR”) status in the United States—is a term used to describe the nondiscriminatory treatment granted among most of the world’s trading partners. Days after the President’s address, on March 16, the House passed to formally revoke PNTR for Russia, and also stripping Belarus of MFN treatment. The bill now moves to the Senate, where timing for its consideration is uncertain.

MFN status is a fundamental principle in the international trading system established under the World Trade Organization (“WTO”), and as a general rule, WTO Members are required to accord MFN status to all other WTO Members. Having acceded to the WTO in 2012, Russia is generally entitled to MFN treatment by other WTO Members. In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, however, several other WTO Members have joined the United States, the EU, and the G7 in stating an intent to revoke MFN treatment for Russia, invoking an “essential security” exception that permits WTO-inconsistent measures where a Member considers such measures to be “necessary for the protection of its essential security interests.” Statements issued by the White House and G7 Leaders emphasized the coordinated nature of the initiative across economies, and the intent to continue to pursue additional collective action to deny Russia the benefits of WTO membership.

While certain G7 countries, such as Canada, have already withdrawn Russia’s trade benefits by means of executive action, revocation of Russia’s PNTR status in the United States will require congressional action. While the House has passed a bill to do so, specific timing for consideration of that legislation in the Senate is still unknown. A revocation of Russia’s MFN status will increase tariff rates applicable to certain U.S. imports from Russia, and may also provoke Russia to take responsive, retaliatory actions against international firms. This alert provides background on Russia’s current trade status, analyzes congressional action to date on the issue, and describes the potential international trade implications for U.S. firms of a change in Russia’s trade status.

Background on Russia’s Trade Status

Under the principle of MFN treatment, WTO Members are required to treat imports of goods and services from any WTO Member as favorably as they treat the imports of like goods and services from any other WTO Member. In practice, this means that MFN treatment is the basic “non-discriminatory” treatment to which all WTO Members are generally entitled. Russia has been accorded MFN treatment by most major economies since it became a WTO Member in August 2012.
Continue Reading Revocation of Russia’s Most-Favored-Nation Trade Status: What Companies Need to Know

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