Announced last week, “INSTEX had been made operational and available to all EU Member States.” INSTEX is the special purpose financing channel designed by the EU to permit the processing of payments for trade between the EU and Iran. INSTEX was deemed necessary by the EU in light of the refusal by many private banks to process payments for trade between the EU and Iran that continues to be authorized by the EU despite the U.S. withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) resulting in the re-imposition of U.S. sanctions.
On June 5, 2019, the Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) amended an important license exception which generally permitted the temporary sojourn of civil aircraft and vessels to Cuba. Specifically, BIS eliminated the license exception for use by non-commercial aircraft and passenger and recreational vessels sailing to Cuba. BIS also amended its licensing policy for such aircraft and vessels establishing a general policy of denial. On the same day, the Department of the Treasury eliminated its authorization for group people-to-people educational travel to Cuba.
On May 21, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) established a process through which U.S. stakeholders may exclude products included in List 3 from a 25% tariff imposed pursuant to the investigation of China’s intellectual property practices under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 (“Section 301”) (discussed here). The window to submit exclusion requests will open “on or around” June 30.
On May 16, 2019, the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) of the U.S. Department of Commerce added Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd. (Huawei) and sixty-eight of its non-U.S. affiliates to the Entity List, thereby prohibiting the export or transfer of U.S. commercial and dual-use goods, software and technology to those companies without a license. Non-U.S. goods or software with more than “de minimis” U.S. content are also subject to the restrictions.
Further to our prior blog post, on May 13, 2019, at the direction of President Trump, the Office of U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) published a proposed tariff list covering approximately $300 billion worth of Chinese imports to be subject to higher duties pursuant to the determinations previously made under Section 301. USTR explained that the United States and China have been engaged in negotiations on a range of issues, including, among others, forced technology transfer, intellectual property protection, non-tariff barriers, cyber intrusions and cyber theft, services and agriculture. According to USTR, shortly in advance of the last scheduled round of negotiations, , China “retreated from specific commitments made in previous rounds”, prompting the United States to propose a fourth list of products subject to additional duties (see here and here for a discussion regarding Lists 1, 2, and 3).
On May 9, 2019, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) issued a Federal Notice indicating that tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports would be increased from 10% to 25%. These products are included in the third set of tariff categories (the first two sets are discussed here) announced by USTR in connection with the investigation under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 into China’s acts, policies, and practices related to intellectual property (discussed here). The increase will go into effect on May 10, 2019 at 12:01 am eastern daylight time. Over the weekend, President Trump also threatened a 25% tariff will “shortly” be imposed on the remaining $325 billion worth of imports not currently subject to tariffs. For the prior three sets of Section 301 duties, there were proposed regulations with opportunity for public comment, and it seems likely that USTR would follow the same approach if there will be a fourth set.
On April 8, 2019, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) proposed imposing tariffs on $11.2 billion worth of products from the European Union (EU). USTR took this action in connection with an over decade long battle between the EU and the U.S. before the World Trade Organization (WTO) over mutual claims of illegal government subsidies to Airbus and its American rival, Boeing. In May 2018, the WTO Appellate Body upheld a panel finding that the EU failed to eliminate certain subsidies previously found to be WTO inconsistent, authorizing the U.S. to seek retaliatory tariffs on EU goods. USTR has estimated that the EU subsidies to Airbus have resulted in harm of $11 billion in trade annually to the U.S. This figure is subject to review by a WTO arbitrator who will determine the level of countermeasures to be authorized in the case. This report is expected to be issued this summer.
The Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS) has cleared the acquisition of Beijing OmniVision Technologies Co., Ltd. by Shanghai Will Semiconductor Co., a PRC-listed company, according to an April 16, 2019, filing with the securities regulators in China. This is welcome news after a string of negative decisions by CFIUS.
On April 17, 2019, the Trump Administration announced that it will allow U.S. citizens whose property was seized by the Cuban Government after 1959 to sue foreign companies that “traffic” in their confiscated property. This step implements Title III of the “Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act” or “Libertad,” often referenced as the “Helms-Burton Act”, which had been suspended for over 20 years. The announcement reflects the Trump Administration’s goals of rolling back the Obama Administration’s relaxation of sanctions on Cuba and pressuring Cuba to back off its support for Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela.
On February 4, 2019, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) issued a withhold release order (WRO) against tuna and tuna products from the Tunango No. 61, a Taiwanese vessel, based on information obtained by CBP that indicated that tuna is harvested with the use of forced labor. The order will detain the entry of tuna and any such merchandise manufactured wholly or in part by the Taiwanese vessel at all U.S. ports. In the accompanying statement, CBP stated that importers of detailed shipments will have the opportunity to “export their shipments or demonstrate that the merchandise was not produced with forced labor.” This WRO is the most recent action resulting from CBP’s renewed focus on enforcement of the U.S. ban on imports of forced labor under Section 307 of the Tariff Act of 1930, and the first issued against a fishing vessel.