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USTR to Hold Public Hearings Concerning Investigations Into Vietnam’s Trade Practices

Posted November 25, 2020


The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative today issued two Federal Register notices (here and here) announcing that it has scheduled virtual public hearings on December 28 and December 29, 2020 in connection with its ongoing investigations into Vietnam’s acts, policies, and practices related to its import and use of illegally harvested or traded timber, and into the valuation of Vietnam’s currency.
USTR Investigations of Vietnam - Timber & Currency

Scope of Testimony - Currency Valuation


According to the USTR, currently available analysis indicates that Vietnam’s currency has been undervalued for the past three years and its government has actively intervened in the exchange market. Organized labour representatives advising the USTR and protectionist business groups such as the Coalition for a Prosperous America contend that Vietnam’s deliberate currency manipulation has led to price suppression, lost profitability, job losses, and a rapidly increasing bilateral trade deficit. To level the playing field, they have called for the U.S. to impose additional tariffs on Vietnamese imports ranging up to 15%.

In this regard, USTR is particularly interested in hearing testimony concerning:

  • Whether Vietnam’s currency is undervalued, and the level of the undervaluation.
  • Vietnam’s acts, policies or practices that contribute to undervaluation of its currency.
  • The extent to which Vietnam’s acts, policies or practices contribute to the undervaluation.
  • Whether Vietnam’s acts, policies and practices are unreasonable or discriminatory.
  • The nature and level of burden or restriction on U.S. commerce caused by the undervaluation of Vietnam’s currency.
  • The determinations required under section 304 of the Trade Act, including what action, if any, should be taken.

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Scope of Testimony - Illegal Timber Use


According to USTR, available evidence suggests that a significant portion of timber imports from Vietnam has been harvested or traded in violation of that country’s domestic laws, the laws of exporting countries, or international rules. A report issued earlier this month by the Congressional Research Service suggests that Vietnamese officials may be improperly recording the origin of timber crossing the border from Cambodia, thereby facilitating illegal timber imports, or allowing imports of endangered species based on invalid permits.

In this regard, USTR is particularly interested in hearing testimony concerning:

  • The extent to which illegal timber is imported into Vietnam.
  • The extent to which Vietnamese producers, including producers of wooden furniture, use illegal timber.
  • The extent to which products of Vietnam made from illegal timber, including wooden furniture, are imported into the United States.
  • Vietnam’s acts, policies or practices relating to the import and use of illegal timber.
  • The nature and level of the burden or restriction on U.S. commerce caused by Vietnam’s import and use of illegal timber.
  • The determinations required under section 304 of the Trade Act, including what action, if any, should be taken in the investigation.

Note: The USTR stipulates that these hearings “will not involve testimony regarding specific products or services that might be affected by an action in the investigation.” 

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How to Participate
 

Written requests to participate in either hearing must be submitted no later than December 10, and are required to also include a summary of the testimony. All written submissions must be filed via the Federal eRulemaking portal at www.Regulations.gov on docket number USTR-2020–0036 (Timber) or USTR–2020–0037 (Currency).

An additional opportunity for public comment will be made available should it later consider actions affecting specific products or services, the USTR advises. Subsequent to the hearings, rebuttal comments may be made until January 6, 2021 (Timber) or January 7 (Currency), provided they are limited to raising “errors of fact or analysis” in any written submissions or hearing testimony.

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Related Information
 

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