President Donald Trump recently issued an executive order authorising broad new sanctions with respect to the steel, aluminium, iron and copper sectors of Iran. The announcement came hours after Iran announced that it would no longer fully comply with elements of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The executive order is a major expansion of existing statutory secondary sanctions which relate to steel and aluminium and also addresses two new sectors – copper and iron.
Fashion accessory and luxury goods importers of fine and costume jewellery containing gemstones or precious metals should be aware of a proposal being considered by Department of State (DOS) officials. According to the DOS, providing US consumers with information regarding the origin of raw materials used in jewellery is important in the fight against abusive regimes. In light of these developments, importers should begin to review their supply chains to understand how their goods could be affected.
After years of waiting, the new 22 CFR 126.4 International Traffic in Arms Regulations licence exemption for transfers of defence articles and services by or for the US government has come into effect. While the introduction of the revised exemption is largely positive for exporters, there are a few new boxes to check.
The Duma provides certain incentives to encourage businesses to operate in Russia. For example, it recently passed a law which permits Russian exporters and Russian subsidiaries of foreign companies that provide services to foreign clients and other companies within such client's groups to deduct the full amount of value added tax for these services. The new law, which was drafted in response to the digital economy, will increase competition in the outbound services market.
Companies have been on high alert since hearing about a potential shutdown of the US-Mexico border. Although President Trump does not appear to be actively taking steps to close the border, the administration has taken actions to address the migrant situation on the southern border that is disrupting global supply chains. To avoid delays, importers should, among other things, have accurate documentation and check with local port directors for any developments.
The Office of the United States Trade Representative recently announced that it is initiating an investigation under Section 301 of the Trade Act 1974 to enforce the United States' rights in the World Trade Organisation dispute involving subsidies provided to the large civil aircraft industry by the European Union. The investigation may result in tariffs of up to 100% on certain imports from the 28 EU member states as soon as 1 June 2019.
The BVI Court of Appeal recently denied an appellant declaratory relief and upheld the respondents' relief from sanction, as granted by the lower court. While this judgment will inevitably provide some comfort to those that find themselves facing sanctions having inadvertently failed to comply with a rule, practice direction or order, it is a timely reminder for everyone that it is better to remain vigilant and compliant than to rely on the court's jurisdiction to grant relief from sanction.
Following a meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, President Trump announced plans for an "epic" trade deal with China. However, to date, Trump has declined to set a date for a signing summit with President Xi Jinping to hammer out a final trade agreement, for which the Section 301 tariffs have emerged as a sticking point. China has demanded that the tariffs be removed as part of any final deal, while the White House hopes to use the tariffs as leverage to ensure compliance.
While various news accounts have now indicated that President Trump will not close the US-Mexico border, the administration will take further actions. As such, there will likely be a slowdown in border processing and longer wait times at all land ports of entry on the Mexican border for an extended period. Among other things, importers are advised to factor in that wait times will markedly increase or even double.
As part of its response to the changes regarding forced labour enforcement brought about by the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act 2015, US Customs and Border Protection is proposing to compel members of the Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism to maintain a social compliance programme to help to combat forced labour in supply chains.
The Trump administration recently announced the termination of India and Turkey as recipients of the Generalised System of Preferences on the grounds that neither country has been adhering to the programme's statutory eligibility criteria. According to the press release, Turkey is 'graduating' from this programme, while India is being removed, as it has failed to assure the United States that it will provide "equitable and reasonable access to its markets in numerous sectors".
The Department of Commerce recently announced that it had formally submitted to President Donald Trump the results of its investigation into the effect of imports of automobiles and automobile parts on the national security of the United States. With this announcement, the global automotive industry was put on high alert of a potential new US import tariff aimed directly at the products that they sell.
In a strike against Nicolás Maduro and his supporters, the Trump administration recently announced a new executive order. Pursuant to Executive Order 13850, US persons are now broadly prohibited from engaging in transactions with Petróleos de Venezuela, SA (PDVSA), including its majority-owned subsidiaries. However, the Office of Foreign Assets Control has rolled out a slew of general licences authorising US persons to engage in certain transactions involving PDVSA and its majority-owned subsidiaries.
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer recently announced the Trump administration's intention to leave companies subject to the 10% tariff rate under Section 301 List 3 of the Trade Act 1974 without an exclusion process. In addition, due to the ongoing federal government shutdown, further delays are anticipated with the review of exclusion requests relating to Section 301 List 1 and Section 301 List 2.
In 2017 the United States agreed that it was time to modernise the 24-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement pact, launching months of negotiations that recently ended. When it comes into force, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) will strengthen national treatment protections for the covered financial services industry in the United States. This is set to take place throughout 2019, with the USMCA possibly coming into force in early 2020.
President Trump recently announced the United States' intention to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and re-impose secondary sanctions on Iran. The announcement was accompanied by wind-down periods during which non-US persons could wrap up transactions entered into prior to 8 May 2018. The final wind-down period recently expired and secondary sanctions were re-imposed on a broad swathe of Iranian persons and sectors of Iran's economy.
If the turbulence of 2018 caused business executives grief, 2019 is unlikely to provide much relief – particularly in light of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Further, Section 232 tariffs on many steel and aluminium imports are likely to continue throughout 2019, as will Section 301 tariffs on more than $200 billion worth of Chinese imports. Finally, the administration has announced its intent to start talks on new trade pacts with the European Union, the United Kingdom and Japan.
Following weeks of negotiations, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has published the agreed text of the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which is slated to replace the 24-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement with what the parties have called "a 21st century, high-standard agreement". While the USMCA text has answered many questions, a number of issues will need to be fleshed out during the implementation phase.
The Dutch customs authorities have wide-ranging inspection powers and, once irregularities have been uncovered, parties with cargo interests may face severe delays and ensuing costs which could have been avoided had they had a better understanding of the relevant rules and regulations. Parties which violate the rules will be subject to legal enforcement proceedings and possible prosecution under criminal law in the event of the Public Prosecutor's Office's involvement.
The United States and Mexico recently announced an agreement regarding key issues that have been the focus of trilateral discussions between the United States, Mexico and Canada for over one year. Although no text is yet available, the Office of the United States Trade Representative has released fact sheets addressing certain aspects of the preliminary agreement in principle.