A weekly roundup of news reports, government announcements, and other information about current and emerging developments in international trade and customs compliance.
More U.S. Importers Signing Container Contracts Earlier
More US importers are signing trans-Pacific contracts earlier than usual to guarantee space both in the short term and over the next 12 to 16 months, according to a report Tuesday by The Journal of Commerce. While not a new phenomenon, this year is different because the early signings are more frequent and driven more by space guarantees than freight rate considerations. Industry sources say more shippers than ever are willing to pay freight rates that are at least twice the rates in last year’s contracts in order to secure additional space guarantees on vessels at Asian load ports.
China Promotes New International Trade Representative
China’s government has promoted Yu Jianhua to become China’s international trade representative, a key position for trade negotiations with other countries, the Ministry of Commerce said on Wednesday. Yu has been the vice-minister of commerce and the deputy China international trade representative since 2017 and has held various positions within the country’s commerce ministry, including posts as a commercial counselor in Europe. Yu will be helping push for implementation of the recently signed RCEP trade pact and is also likely to participate in future trade talks with the U.S., although the two sides have not yet indicated that they will launch negotiations after signing the phase one deal.
Commerce Finds Dumping of Difluoromethane from China
Commerce announced its affirmative final determination in the antidumping duty investigation of difluoromethane (R-32, a refrigerant used in air conditioners) from China which has found to have been dumped in the U.S. at rates ranging between 161.49% to 221.06%. The U.S. International Trade Commission is currently scheduled to make its final injury determination on or about Feb. 25, 2021.
Commerce Issues Interim Rule to Secure the ICTS Supply Chain
Pursuant to a 2019 Executive Order, the outgoing Trump administration moved this week to block purchases of technology and communication equipment from five “foreign adversaries” including China. Commerce announced a new rule on Thursday aimed at ensuring the security of the supply chain for Information and Communications Technology and Services, that would allow it to ban the importation of certain ICT products from designated countries. Apart from China the department also named Russia, Iran, North Korea, Cuba, and Venezuela under Nicolas Maduro regime as adversaries. The interim final rule will take effect on March 15, 2021. Commerce says it intends to implement a licensing process by mid-May.
USTR Says Internet Platforms Pose ‘Greatest Risk’ of Importing Counterfeit Goods
The USTR on Thursday released its annual list of notorious markets for counterfeiting and piracy, addressing “for the first time” how internet platforms facilitate the importation of counterfeit and pirated goods. According to the report, e-commerce companies that market and sell foreign products to consumers today pose the “greatest risk of importation of counterfeit and pirated goods,” pointing to Amazon’s platform as an example of the problem facing intellectual property rights-holders. The company dismissed the report as “the continuation of a personal vendetta against Amazon [i.e., Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post], and nothing more than a desperate stunt in the final days of this administration.”
Trump Extends Safeguard Measures on Washer Imports for Two Years
In a proclamation issued Thursday, President Trump extended tariff-rate quotas on imports of large residential washers and covered partners through 2023. A review by the International Trade Commission had previously recommended extending the tariff rate quota for an additional period of two years, citing lower sales volumes and lost production due to the COVID-19 pandemic as reasons for continuing the measures.
EU Official Hopes to Engage Quickly with Biden Administration on Trade Disputes
Speaking at an event in Washington on Friday, European Union Director-General for Trade Sabine Weyand said she hopes to “engage rapidly” with the new Biden administration and will be aiming to reach a negotiated settlement to the long-running WTO aircraft subsidy dispute within the next six months. Weyand also stated that resolving punitive tariffs such as those on steel/aluminum are “a prerequisite for creating a good atmosphere” so that the EU and the U.S. can coordinate on confronting China’s trade abuses.
USTR Declines Taking Action Against Vietnam’s ‘Unreasonable’ Currency Practices
On Friday, the U.S. Trade Representative issued a comprehensive report that includes the evidence, consultations, and findings from the Section 301 investigation of “Vietnam’s acts, policies, and practices related to currency valuation,” which it determined are “unreasonable and burden or restrict U.S. commerce.” Despite this finding, USTR is not presently taking any action on the matter, but says it will “evaluate all available options.” Industry groups have been pressuring the USTR to hold off slapping tariffs on Vietnamese imports, pushing instead for a deeper review of the situation.