We want to make sure you stay up to date with the hottest trade blogs from 2020. Below is a summary of what you missed by category. Enjoy!
U.S.-Cuba Trade under Trump
Since the early 1960s, the U.S. maintained a policy of economic sanctions towards Cuba. The U.S. policy sought to isolate the Cuban government. In 2014, the Obama administration significantly changed U.S. trade and economic policies towards Cuba by restoring diplomatic relations, rescinding Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terror, and permitting increased trade between the two countries. This period was known as the Cuban Thaw.
However, under President Trump’s administration, the Obama administration’s efforts to normalize relations have been rolled back. In November 2017, the Trump administration restricted financial transactions with entities controlled by the Cuban government. Furthermore, many new entities have been added to the Cuba restricted list under the Trump administration. As of 2019, the Trump administration has more or less abandoned engagement with the Cuban government, and has opted instead to increase sanctions based on Cuba’s human rights violations and its support of the Venezuelan government under Nicolas Maduro.
Trump’s Trade Legacy
To fully understand the Biden administration’s trade priorities, it’s essential to understand Trump’s U.S. trade actions and the trade environment Biden will inherit. Trump made trade policy a center-stage issue. The administration enacted policies that counter several decades of neoliberal trade policies. The administration also questioned fundamental tenets of the global trading system and the function and purpose of the World Trade Organization. Furthermore, Trump followed through on many trade-related campaign promises by utilizing an array of tools.
White House Releases Critical Technologies Report
Last month, the White House released a landmark report titled the “National Strategy for Critical and Emerging Technologies.” The report outlines how the United States will promote and protect our competitive edge in fields such as artificial intelligence, energy, quantum information science, communication and networking technologies, semiconductors, military, and space technologies.
USTR’s Tougher Stance on Vietnam
The Trump administration has begun to exercise a tougher stance against Vietnam. The United States Trade Representative (“USTR”) initiated two Section 301 investigations against the Southeast Asian country on October 2, 2020. The focus of the two investigations are Vietnam’s acts, policies, and practices related to (1) the valuation of its currency, and (2) Vietnam’s importation and use of illegal timber. The news of USTR’s launch of these dual investigations came days before the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest trade data release – which indicated that the U.S. trade deficit in goods with Vietnam is at record levels, registering at $42.7 billion in the 8 months of data available for 2020. This skyrocketing trade deficit is relevant to U.S. trade policy towards Vietnam because one of President Trump’s key economic pledges was to lower the U.S. trade deficit with trading partners. A well-documented pattern of transshipment of goods from China through Vietnam to avoid U.S. Section 301 duties towards China could also explain Vietnam being targeted.
Last week, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry & Security (“BIS”) informed some U.S. semiconductor manufacturers via a confidential letter that they would require export licenses before exporting certain products to China’s largest semiconductor manufacturer, Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (“SMIC”). Although the letter is not available for public view, a September 28, 2020 Wall Street Journal article that broke the story said that the Commerce Department was concerned about high risks of diversion to a military end use. This additional export license requirement is part of a broader pattern of increased export restrictions, particularly to China.
On June 24, 2019, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) provided the public with an exclusion process for items included subjected to Section 301 Tariffs. Specifically, the exclusions related to products included on List 3, which went into effect on September 24, 2018.
Originally, List 3 imposed 10 percent ad valorem duties on 5,757 full and partial subheadings of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) and had an annual trade value of $200 Billion. Months later, in May 2019, the 10 percent ad valorem duties were increased to 25 percent. […]
On June 26, July 17, and August 11, 2020, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) requested the public to submit comments regarding potential product exclusion extensions for items subject to Section 301 Tariffs. This comment period specifically applied to products that were included on List 4.
When the list was announced on August 20, 2019, it imposed a 10 percent ad valorem on 3,805 full and partial subheadings of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), with an annual trade value of approximately $300 billion. Then, on August 30, 2019, USTR increased the rate of the additional duty announced in the August 20 notice from 10 to 15 percent. Finally, on January 22, 2020, USTR determined to reduce the rate from 15 to 7.5 percent. […]
301 Lawsuit Background
In mid-September, a coalition of importers filed a Court challenge to the USTR’s imposition of Section 301 duties on certain imports from China under Lists 3 and 4. These duties were imposed as part of a process purportedly intended to address intellectual property abuses by China. Specifically, this coalition has claimed that these duties were imposed contrary to law and ignored the statutory deadlines in Section 301. Further, the coalition has argued that these duties were not imposed in response to the intellectual property violations alleged in the initiation notice, but rather were filed in response to the retaliatory tariffs enacted by China. Accordingly, the coalition argues, such tariffs were void from the initial imposition.
On October 5, 2020, Brazil’s Assistant Deputy Minister for Foreign Trade and International Affairs, Yana Dumaresq, stated during an Atlantic Council online panel discussion that a U.S.-Brazil trade agreement that covers trade facilitation, good regulatory practices, and anti-corruption is in legal scrub and the text should be finalized by mid-October. “We hope to have them signed this month,” Dumaresq said. The U.S. Commerce Department’s lead negotiator on this agreement, Joseph Semsar, said that “this is a unique opportunity to get things done that seemed unattainable.” These latest developments are a result of months of negotiations between the two major economies. Trade facilitation Back in April 2020, the U.S. Trade Representative (“USTR”) released a statement describing meetings between Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and President Donald Trump and ambitious plans to strengthen trade and economies ties.