Weekly Trade Briefing: March 29-April 2, 2021

International Trade News

Trade Update • April 2, 2021

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

China Semiconductor

China Announces Tariff Cuts, Preferential Tax Policies for Semiconductor Industry

Chinese government agencies this week unveiled a series of preferential policies, including tariff cuts and tax exemptions, for its semiconductor industry as part of China’s broader self-reliance drive when it comes to its high-tech manufacturing sector. Among the measures, the Customs administration said qualifying semiconductor firms can import certain raw materials and equipment tariff-free if they are manufacturing chips smaller than 65 nanometers or certain high-tech manufacturing processes. The exemption is retroactive to July 2020 and is set to last until 2030.

Biden Signing Executive Order

Commerce Announces Tech Supply Chain Review Comment Period and Virtual Forum

In connection with President Biden’s February 24 Executive Order 14017 establishing a wide-ranging evaluation of America’s semiconductor manufacturing and advanced packaging supply chains that will take place over the next year, the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security has announced that it will also conduct a virtual forum on April 8 that will allow industry participants to provide their views orally. This is additional to the public comment period previously announced.

Biden Signing Executive Order

DOE Inviting Public Comments Regarding High-Capacity Battery Supply Chains

The Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy this week published a Federal Register notice requesting information from industry participants on the high-capacity batteries (including electrical vehicle batteries) supply chain. Critical materials identified by the DOE include battery-grade nickel, cobalt, and lithium. Of particular interest to DOE are those supply-chain participants involved with raw materials, refining, separators, collectors, and recyclers.

Cork Flooring

Cork Flooring Classification Based on Face Ply Veneer, CBP Rules

Agglomerated cork flooring with a natural cork veneer on top should be classified based on that veneer, CBP said in a ruling issued last month. In the ruling, CBP stated that the flooring product in question is a composite good classified by application of General Rule of Interpretation 3(b) according to its essential character. “Although the layer of natural cork is the thinnest, it comprises the front face (or top layer) when the flooring is installed, CBP stated, noting that this layer is that which is walked on and maintained and gives the product its commercial appeal.

USTR Tai Holding Virtual Meeting

USTR Tai Holds Virtual Meetings with Trade Ministers of Kenya and Vietnam

On April 1, USTR Katherine Tai met virtually with Betty Maina, the Kenyan Minister of Industrialization, Trade, and Enterprise Development. The two discussed the bilateral trade talks conducted under the Trump administration with Tai highlighting the ongoing review of the negotiations to ensure that any agreement aligns with the new administration’s Build Back Better agenda. In her discussion with the Vietnam Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh, Tai highlighted the Biden Administration’s concerns about currency practices covered in the ongoing Section 301 investigation in addition to U.S. concerns on illegal timber practices, digital trade and agriculture.

Tom Vilsack

Ag Secretary Vilsack Urges Congress to ‘Get Serious’ About TPA Renewal

Congress and the administration should start working now to renew Trade Promotion Authority so the U.S. is able to pursue future trade goals, such as concluding negotiations with the UK, opening new markets in Africa and potentially even rejoining the TPP, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Tuesday. The fast-track authority for trade agreements—typically a contentious process to renew—is set to expire at the end of June. During a conference on Agricultural Trade this week Vilsack said he hoped Congress “begins to get serious” about renewing/extending the TPA, arguing that trade deals are “nearly impossible” to get through Congress without it.

Court of International Trade Building

CIT Issues New Procedural Orders in China Section 301 Tariff Refund Case

On March 31, the three-judge panel at the U.S. Court of International Trade assigned to the case involving the potential refund of Section 301 tariffs on certain imports from China issued its fourth procedural order in the proceeding. In the order, the court accepted the first-filed litigation on behalf of HMTX Industries as the sample case for the proceeding — staying all others for the time being. The CIT also accepted the 15-person steering committee proposed by the plaintiffs and set an April 12 deadline for a joint status report that will provide a briefing schedule and identify any issues requiring case management intervention. Finally, the court refused to address for now the availability of Section 301 tariff refunds regardless of the liquidation status of the subject entries.

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