The Export Control Reform Act of 2018, included within the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2019, became law on August 13, 2018, and provides “modern” and permanent statutory authority for the U.S. Export Administration regulations (EAR), which control the export, re-export, and transfer of U.S. origin “dual-use” items.

As a result of the effort to strengthen control over foreign investment in the United States (contained in a companion statute within the NDAA), the law directs the Commerce Department to establish an inter-agency process, subject to a public notice and comment period, for the identification of “emerging and foundational technologies” that are essential to the national security of the United States, and requires the imposition of licensing requirements (even if unilateral) at least for transfers of such technologies to U.S. arms embargoed countries, which includes China.

With respect to potential technologies likely to incur heightened scrutiny, a Commerce Department industry event in May of this year highlighted U.S. advancements vis-a-vis Europe and China in the areas of artificial intelligence (particularly autonomy, and human-AI interaction), 5G technology, and robotics, among others.

 

On August 16, 2018, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) published in the Federal Register the formal notice for the China Section 301 tariffs beginning on August 23.

The USTR published the final list of 279 Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) subheadings known collectively as ‘List 2’ on August 7, 2018. These tariff lines will see an additional ad valorem duty of 25% on products from China and is worth $16 billion.

Unlike the notice implementing List 1 from June 20, 2018, the USTR:

  • Added to Annex A of this notice clarifications on the application of the additional duties to goods entered under certain provisions of Chapter 98 and 99 of the HTSUS;
  • In Annex C to this notice, modifies the HTSUS note in Annex A to the June 20 notice in order to reflect these clarifications; and
  • Annex C makes a conforming amendment to the HTSUS heading in Annex A to the June 20 notice, and makes a technical correction to the HTSUS note in Annex A to the June 20 notice.

The tariff subheadings in Annex A and B are the same. The latter list includes unofficial descriptions of the types of products covered in each subheading.

Regarding product exclusions, the notice states, “…the Trade Representative has determined that USTR will establish a process by which U.S. stakeholders may request that particular products classified within an HTSUS subheading listed in Annex A be excluded from these additional duties. The process will be comparable to the exclusion process established in connection with the initial, $34 billion trade action. USTR will publish a separate notice describing the product exclusion process, including the procedures for submitting exclusion requests, and an opportunity for interested persons to submit oppositions to a request.”

Check here for the latest developments on all the on-going trade actions.

 

On August 10, 2018, President Trump issued a new Proclamation Adjusting Imports of Steel into the United States from Turkey. Steel articles covered by Section 232 from Turkey are now subject to an ad valorem duty rate of 50%.

On August 12, 2018, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) issued Cargo Systems Messaging Service (CSMS) #18-000477, which stated:

  • The increased duty rates began at 12:01 a.m. EDT on August 13, 2018.
  • In addition to reporting the regular Chapters 72 & 73 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) classification for the imported merchandise, importers shall report the following HTSUS classification for imported merchandise subject to the additional duty:
    • 9903.80.02 (50% ad valorem duty rate for products of iron and steel that are the product of Turkey).

The USTR announced on August 3rd that it will review Turkey’s eligibility for the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program that grants duty-free access to the U.S. market. GSP is a U.S. trade program designed to promote economic growth in the developing world by providing preferential duty-free entry for up to 4,800 products from 129 designated beneficiary countries and territories. Concern over Turkey’s “compliance with the GSP market access criterion,” led the USTR to initiate the review. This also follows Turkey retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods in response to the Section 232 tariffs imposed by the U.S. in March. Earlier this year, Commerce submitted reports to President Trump stating U.S. importers’ reliance on foreign-made aluminum and steel posed a national security risk.

In 2017, the top categories of goods imported from Turkey under the program were vehicles and vehicle parts, jewelry and precious metals, and stone articles. The final decision on Turkey’s GSP status will be made after a public hearing and comment process.

Steel imports from Turkey have fallen significantly according to data from the U.S. International Trade Commission. Steel imports from Turkey were 1.3% of total U.S. steel imports from January to June of 2018 and dropped over 41% since June 2017. Following on the heels of the USTR’s announcement regarding Turkey’s GSP eligibility review, on August 10, 2018, President Trump threatened to double the Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Turkey, to 50 percent and 20 percent, respectively claiming that the existing tariffs have less of an impact due to Turkey’s currency, the lira, depreciating against the U.S. dollar.

The White House issued the following statement:

“[T]he President has authorized the preparation of documents to raise tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum from Turkey. Section 232 tariffs are imposed on imports from particular countries whose exports threaten to impair national security as defined in Section 232, independent of negotiations on trade or any other matter.”

For further information, please contact us.

 

 

On August 7, 2018, EU’s newly updated Blocking Statute entered into force. The Blocking Statute generally forbids EU citizens and established entities, residents, and persons physically in the EU from complying with a variety of U.S. measures imposing secondary sanctions on Iran, including the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996, the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act of 2012, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, and the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012. The Blocking Statute also makes foreign court judgments based on these sanctions ineffective in the EU, and allows EU operators to recover damages arising from U.S. extraterritorial sanctions from the persons or entities causing those damages.

On Monday, August 6, 2018, President Trump issued a new Executive Order (New Iran EO) that reimposes Iran sanctions previously revoked as part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), consolidates the relevant authorities into one single document, and broadens the scope of previous sanctions restrictions. This action coincides with the expiration of the 90-day wind down period for a number of transactions previously authorized as part of the Agreement. OFAC also updated and issued additional Frequently Asked Questions with respect to this New Iran EO.

Reimposition of Sanctions Authorities and Revocation of Previous EO’s

In accordance with President Trump’s May 8, 2018 decision to withdraw from the JCPOA, the New Iran EO reimposes the relevant provisions of EOs 13574, 13590, 13622, and 13645 previously revoked by EO 13716. Accordingly, as of 12:01 a.m. eastern daylight time (EDT) Tuesday, August 7, 2018, sanctions targeting the following areas were reinstated:

  • The purchase or acquisition of U.S. dollar banknotes by the Government of Iran.
  • Iran’s trade in gold or precious metals.
  • The direct or indirect sale, supply, or transfer to or from Iran of graphite, raw, or semi-finished metals such as aluminum and steel, coal, and software for integrating industrial processes.
  • Significant transactions related to the purchase or sale of Iranian rials, or the maintenance of significant funds or accounts outside the territory of Iran denominated in the Iranian rial.
  • Purchase, subscription to, or facilitation of the issuance of Iranian sovereign debt.
  • Iran’s automotive sector.

Further, as of August 7, 2018, the wind down period terminated for transactions related to the export/re-export of Iran commercial passenger aircraft pursuant to General License I, and transactions regarding U.S. imports of, and dealings in, Iranian-origin foodstuffs and carpets, and related letters of credit and brokering services. The next wind down deadline is November 4, 2018, and relates to transactions pursuant to General License H, and sanctions targeting the following areas: Iran’s port operators and shipping/ship-building sectors; petroleum-related transactions; financial transactions and specialized messaging services with the Central Bank of Iran; underwriting and insurance services; and Iran’s energy sector.

The New Iran EO also revokes EOs 13716 and 13628 and supersedes these authorities by incorporating the blocking sanctions previously provided in sections 2 and 3, and subsection 3(c) respectively.

Expansion of Sanctions in Effect Prior to JCPOA

The New Iran EO further broadens the scope of sanctions in effect prior the implementation of the JCPOA, January 16, 2016. OFAC details this expansion in Frequently Asked Question # 601, and we have summarized those changes below:

  • New Designation Authority: The New Iran EO provides new authority to designate as Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs) any person that on or after November 5, 2018, provided material support, or goods and services in support of, persons designated for engaging in the following transactions: (1) providing support, or goods and services in support of the purchase or acquisition of U.S. bank notes or precious metals by the GOI; (2) providing support, or goods and services in support of the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), the Naftiran Intertrade Company (NICO), or the Central Bank of Iran (CBI); or (3) being part of the Iranian energy sector, shipping, or shipbuilding sectors, being a port operator in Iran, or providing significant support of persons designated under section 1244(c)(1)(A) of the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act of 2012 (IFCA) or other SDNs.

 

  • New Restrictions on Financial Institutions: The New Iran EO provides the authority to prohibit or significantly restrict correspondent and payable-through accounts of foreign financial institutions determined to have knowingly conducted or facilitated significant transactions on or after November 5, 2018, with persons designated pursuant to the new authorities described above.

 

  • Expanded Menu of Sanctions for Petroleum Transactions: The New EO expands the menu of sanctions available to be imposed on persons that on or after November 5, 2018, knowingly engaged in significant transactions related to Iranian petroleum products and petrochemicals, including: (1) Visa restrictions on controlling officers and shareholders; (2) certain secondary sanctions on principal executive officers of a SDN; and (3) prohibitions on investing in or purchasing debt and equity instruments from a sanctioned person.

 

  • Expanding Restrictions on Foreign Subsidiaries of U.S. Companies: The New EO also expands sanctions restrictions on foreign subsidiaries of U.S. owned or controlled companies by prohibiting transactions with persons blocked for any of the following activity: (1) providing material support for, or goods and services in support of, persons designated pursuant to Iran sanctions; and (2) being part of the Iranian energy sector, shipping, or shipbuilding sectors, being a port operator in Iran, or providing significant support of persons designated under section 1244(c)(1)(A) of the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act of 2012 (IFCA) or other SDNs. Note that this expanded restriction does not eliminate the authorization to wind down transactions pursuant to General License H by November 4, 2018.

Implications

The expansion of pre-JCPOA sanctions may come as some surprise to the business community, but largely fall within the Trump Administration’s new policy towards Iran. In his May 8th National Security Memorandum, President Trump hinted that the process of restoring sanctions could entail revising relevant sanctions regulations. These revisions make clear that after the November 4th wind-down date, any person, including U.S. persons, that attempts to directly or indirectly provide support in any way to persons designated under pre-JCPOA sanctions restrictions will also risk designation.

 

These renewed and expanded U.S. sanctions against Iran creates an increasingly complex landscape for companies operating globally, as it is impossible to comply with both sets of restrictions. However, a few large European companies have already suspended plans to invest in Iran.

On August 8, China released its list of retaliatory tariffs on $16 billion in U.S. goods. This was in direct response to the USTR’s announcement on August 7 of the final List 2 of Section 301 tariffs on $16 billion in Chinese imports. The Chinese Ministry of Finance’s list released today includes an additional 219 tariff items that were added to the list China originally released back in June. Both the U.S. and China are setting tariff rates at 25% for this second tranche of goods and plan to implement the duties on August 23.

Please click here for an unofficial English version of the HTS Subheadings on the Chinese list.

For an overview of the current U.S. Section 301 tariff status, please click here.

 

 

 

 

 

On August 7, 2018, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) released a final list of approximately $16 billion worth of imports from China that will be subject to a 25 percent additional tariff. The list contains 279 of the original 284 tariff lines that were on a proposed list announced on June 15.

Update: the five tariff items that were excluded from the final List 2 are:

3913.10.00 Alginic acid, and its salts and esters, in primary forms
8465.96.00 Splitting, slicing or paring machines for working wood, cork, bone, hard rubber, hard
plastics or similar hard materials
8609.00.00 Containers (including containers for transport of fluids) specially designed and
equipped for carriage by one or more modes of transport
8905.90.10 Floating docks
9027.90.20 Microtomes

Changes to the proposed list were made after USTR and the interagency Section 301 Committee sought and received written comments and testimony during a two-day public hearing last month. Customs and Border Protection will begin to collect the additional duties on the Chinese imports on August 23.

A formal notice of the $16 billion tariff action will be published in the Federal Register. Please contact us if you have any questions or need assistance.

 

On July 26, 2018, the Senate unanimously passed the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill Act of 2018 (MTB), a bill that would cut or eliminate tariffs on articles such as chemicals, footwear, toasters, and roughly 1,660 other items made outside the United States. Roughly half of those items are produced in China. The bill was passed without debate. The last MTB passed by Congress expired on December 31, 2012.

President Trump had announced a series of punitive tariffs on Chinese imports and China has retaliated with its own duties on imports from the United States. The White House has not yet announced a position on the MTB bill, which has now passed both the Senate and the House of Representatives unanimously. There are minor differences that need to be resolved before the legislation can be sent to the President to sign into law.

Associations have been urging Congress to pass MTB in order to eliminate what they claim are unfair, out-of-date and/or anticompetitive taxes. It is estimated that the 2018 MTB Act would eliminate import tariffs of more than $1.1 billion over the next three years and boost U.S. manufacturing output by more than $3.1 billion. Supporters of the bill have stated that it would boost the economy by getting rid of tariffs set up to protect industries that no longer exist in the United States.

 

In a press release issued on August 1, United States Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer announced the President directed him to consider increasing the proposed level of the additional duty on the latest Section 301 List (List 3 worth $200 billion) from 10% to 25%.

On August 3, China responded in kind and threatened to increase retaliatory tariffs on $60 billion in U.S. goods should President Trump move forward with new tariffs on imports from China.

In addition to USTR’s proposed action on List 3, the second U.S. Section 301 List (worth $16 billion) just finished a public comment process. The White House has not announced its decision on List 2 as of yet. For an overview of the current U.S. Section 301 tariff status, please click here. China’s proposed retaliation would increase duties on the affected U.S. goods by 5, 10, 20, or 25%.

Please click here for an unofficial version of the HTS Subheadings on the 25% list.

Please click here for an unofficial version of the HTS Subheadings on the 20% list.

Please click here for an unofficial version of the HTS Subheadings on the 10% list.

Please click here for an unofficial version of the HTS Subheadings on the 5% list.