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Like many governments around the world, UK politics currently appear somewhat unstable. And the UK’s problems are a reflection of the world, where established views and beliefs are suddenly no longer the unassailable certainties they have seemed to be for decades.

Davos met this week for the first time in two years against this very unsettled backdrop.  A few thoughts and reflections on discussions there follow…

Conversation seemed to centre around emerging trends which challenge the apparent established order of the postwar years. Liberalised economies, increasing globalisation and spreading democracy have been remarkably successful at lifting many millions of people out of poverty and providing them access to electricity, clean water, food and economic opportunity.

Yet now the acceptance of the universality of that approach appears to be under challenge and the world economy teeters on the edge of a downturn…Continue Reading A few thoughts from Davos…

Most observers expect the Republicans to take control of the House of Representatives, and possibly the Senate, in the upcoming midterm elections.  While both Democrats and Republicans are likely to keep their attention on the actions of so-called “Big Tech,” this political shift should bring a renewed focus on amending Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.  Section 230, which provides platforms with immunity from liability for third-party content and content-moderation decisions, has been a target for lawmakers seeking to limit the power of large technology companies.  Republicans have generally focused more on modifying Section 230, versus Democrats, who have spent more energy on using antitrust legislation to regulate those platforms.

Looking ahead, now is the time to consider policies and plans in light of a Republican-controlled Congress taking on potentially divisive issues through the lens of Section 230.

Republicans, Conservatives, and Section 230

Two trends will guide Republicans’ approach to Section 230 in the next Congress.  First, as in many areas, Republicans will seek to address what they see as “woke capitalism.”  New York Times columnist Ross Douthat coined the term in 2018 and defined it as a “certain kind of virtue-signaling on progressive social causes, a certain degree of performative wokeness, [that] is offered to liberalism and the activist left pre-emptively, in hopes that having corporate America take their side in the culture wars will blunt efforts to tax or regulate our new monopolies too heavily.”

Republicans are already planning a variety of legislative and oversight maneuvers meant to address corporations taking certain positions on cultural issues.  Technology companies may very well be at the top of Republicans’ list.

Second, conservatives increasingly view liberals as having abandoned their commitment to free speech.  For example, Republicans view the Hunter Biden laptop controversy, campus speech codes, and social media content moderation as part of a broader effort to silence and marginalize conservatives.  Simply put, conservatives believe that they are now the defenders of free speech.
Continue Reading SECTION 230 IN A REPUBLICAN CONGRESS

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

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

Securities and Capital Markets

On March 21, 2022, the SEC proposed landmark rules regarding climate-related disclosures that would, if finalized, impact both domestic and foreign private issuers that are subject to the reporting requirements of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.  The much-anticipated proposal will elicit discussion regarding the type, amount, and materiality of certain climate-related information that a company could be required to report.  The proposal also highlights the significant shift in market expectations globally regarding a company’s oversight of evolving climate-related risks and opportunities.  The SEC also published a fact sheet describing the proposed new disclosure requirements, which includes a matrix outlining the proposed phase-in periods and accommodations for the new disclosures.  The timing and scope of final rules remains uncertain, but the earliest that certain large accelerated companies would need to comply with the proposed rules if adopted would be 2023 (with the possibility of a filing by 2024).

Below we summarize:

  1. Background developments that led to the proposal;
  2. Key provisions of the proposed rules;
  3. Controversial elements of the proposal that may engender further debate; and
  4. What companies should be doing now.

Background

In recent years, investors have become increasingly focused on climate-related issues and risks related to a company’s business.  This heightened awareness has resulted in the SEC taking various steps to address investor demand for more transparent, comparable, decision-useful climate-related disclosure.  For example, in 2010, the SEC released guidance on how companies should apply existing disclosure requirements pertaining to a company’s business operations and exposure to material climate-related matters.[1]

In March 2021, SEC Commissioner and then-Acting Chair Allison Herren Lee requested public input from investors, companies and other market participants on whether current disclosures regarding climate-related opportunities and risks provided adequate information to investors.[2]  ESG-related task forces were also established with the purpose of evaluating climate-related disclosures and claims.  In July 2021, SEC Chair Gary Gensler announced the SEC would propose mandatory climate-related disclosure rules.  In September 2021, the SEC’s Division of Corporate Finance issued a Sample Letter to Companies Regarding Climate Change Disclosures to provide companies with additional guidance regarding climate-related disclosures.
Continue Reading SEC Proposes Landmark Climate-Related Disclosure Rules

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

On January 27, 2022, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) that would require internet service providers (“ISPs”) to display labels disclosing certain service information, including prices, introductory rates, data allowances, broadband speeds, and network management practices.  Notably, the NPRM proposes to adopt—with some modifications—the labels developed by an advisory

On 22 December 2021, the conference of German data protection supervisory authorities (“DSK”) published its Guidance for Providers of Telemedia Services (Orientierungshilfe für Anbieter von Telemedien).  Particularly relevant for providers of websites and mobile applications, the Guidance is largely devoted to the “cookie provision” of the German Telecommunication and Telemedia Privacy Act (TTDSG),

On November 8, 2021, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed a new electronic monitoring law (S2628) requiring New York businesses that monitor or intercept employees’ e-mails, telephone calls, or internet usage to notify employees in writing of these practices.  The new law amends the state’s civil rights law and takes effect on May

Last Tuesday, GAO released its Fiscal Year 2021 protest statistics, which as always contains a wealth of interesting information about GAO’s protest system.

  • Protest filings dropped by 12% from FY20.  After remaining fairly steady in FY19 and FY20, filings dropped in FY21, with the lowest number of cases filed since FY08.  It seems likely,