Weekly Trade Briefing: January 24 – 28, 2022

News Banner (International Trade News)

Trade Update • JANUARY 28, 2021

Aweekly roundup of news reports, government announcements, and other information about current and emerging developments in international trade and customs compliance.

Piracy in Gulf of Guinea (Photo courtesy of eunavfor.eu)

Piracy Attacks at Lowest Level Since 1994, Maritime Bureau Reports

Maritime piracy and armed robbery attacks last year “reached the lowest recorded level since 1994” according to the ICC International Maritime Bureau’s latest annual report. In 2021, the IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre was notified of 132 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships, which included 115 incidents where vessels were boarded, 11 attempted attacks, five vessels fired upon, and one vessel hijacked. The Gulf of Guinea remains the world’s piracy hotspot, despite reported incidents in the region falling by more than a half – from 81 in 2020 to 34 last year. The IMB attributed the overall drop in incidents to “vigorous action taken by authorities” – but stressed that “continued coordination and vigilance” was still needed to protect seafarers.

U.S. Trade with Caribbean Region Drops Due to COVID-19

A biannual report from the Office of the USTR shows that trade with countries in the Caribbean region declined during the COVID-19 pandemic. The 17 countries that benefit from preferential treatment under various trade-promoting programs of the Caribbean Basin Initiative provided $5.1 billion worth of imports in 2020, down $1 billion from the previous year. Meanwhile, the value of exports to the Caribbean amounted to $11.1 billion in 2020, a 20% drop from 2019. USTR attributed the declines to significant economic struggles experienced throughout the region during the initial stages of the pandemic.

Auto Tires

CIT Questions Commerce Finding of Chinese Government Control in Tire Duty Case

In a long-running fight over the administration of various antidumping and countervailing duty orders on passenger vehicle and light truck tires from China, the U.S. Court of International Trade this week ordered the Commerce Department to reconsider duties assessed on two Chinese firms at the country-wide rate of 22.57% rather than the 9% separate rate for companies that have demonstrated an absence of government control. In remanding the matter back to Commerce, the Court criticized the agency for its “vague and ambiguous” reasoning with regards to the companies’ purported ties to the Chinese government.

USITC Launches Sec. 337 Investigation into Integrated Circuits/Devices

The U.S. International Trade Commission on Tuesday voted to institute an investigation of certain integrated circuit products and devices containing the same. The probe follows a complaint by California-based Future Link Systems alleging infringement of two patents by 17 companies including Apple, Acer, Dell, Lenovo, and Google. With respect to the potential impact of the case, “these licensees collectively supply a large percentage of the worldwide market for microprocessors, microcontrollers, and application processors,” notes IPValue Management Inc., the litigious consultancy firm that owns Future Link. The USITC will set a target date for completing the investigation prior to March 12.

CBSA Initiates Normal Value Review of Certain Steel Fasteners

The Canada Border Services Agency this week initiated a normal value review (a schedule is available here) to determined whether certain steel fasteners originating in or exported from Taiwan by Katsuhana Fasteners Corp. The review is part of the CBSA’s enforcement of a 2020 order respecting the dumping of fasteners originating in or exported from China and Taiwan. Importers should note that the normal values and export prices determined as a result of this review may be applied retroactively.

USITC to Investigate Competitiveness of U.S. FTZs

The USITC announced this week that it will soon be undertaking a new factfinding investigation on operations and conditions of competitiveness in U.S. foreign trade zones and similar programs in Canada and Mexico. The study was requested last month by USTR Katherine Tai. When completed, the USITC’s report will include policy and economic overviews of FTZs operating in Canada and Mexico, along with an analysis of the effects of current FTZ policies and practices in the USMCA region on the cost-competitiveness of products of U.S. firms operating in these FTZs.

CBP Issues Forced Labor Finding Against Sime Darby Plantation

In an upcoming general notice of forced labor finding, CBP is announcing that it has determined that certain palm oil and derivative products made wholly or in part with palm oil produced by Sime Darby Plantation Berhad, its subsidiaries, and joint ventures are being made with the use of convict, forced or indentured labor. CBP issued a Withhold Release Order banning imports from the company in late 2020. The company, one of the world’s largest producers of palm oil, had vowed to improve its human rights record, but last July dissolved the Human Rights Assessment Commission that had been appointed following the resignation of two members citing a lack of transparency.

Censorship in China and Certain Other Countries Inhibit U.S. Businesses, ITC Study Finds

On Thursday, the U.S. International Trade Commission issued the first of a two-part study on the impact of foreign censorship on U.S. businesses. The factfinding spotlights China and five other countries — Russia, Turkey, Vietnam, India, and Indonesia, in order of their “policy restrictiveness and likely relevance for U.S. businesses’ trade and investment” — and catalogs the various ways in which the countries’ respective governments, directly and indirectly, restrict U.S. firms’ access to their markets, especially in the digital economy. Censorship in these markets, according to the report, is undertaken by a variety of “governmental agencies and actors” and often also requires “the cooperation of non-governmental actors, such as U.S. internet companies.”

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