A weekly roundup of news reports, government announcements, and other information about current and emerging developments in international trade and customs compliance.
RCEP to Create World’s Biggest Free Trade Pact
On November 15, China and 14 other Asian nations concluded the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership negotiations. Once ratified over the next year by participating countries (including seven members of the rival Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership), the RCEP will create the largest free trade pact in the world, surpassing the European Union, and comprising nearly a third of the world’s population and economic output. According to an analysis by the Brooking Institute, RCEP is expected to modestly benefit its members while the gains for the rest of the world are seen as being limited but mildly positive.
EU Launches New Complaint System to Enhance Trade Enforcement Efforts
The European Commission has launched a new complaints system for reporting market access barriers and breaches of Trade and Sustainable Development commitments in the EU’s trade agreements and under the Generalised Scheme of Preferences. Complaints will be channelled through a new centralized Single Entry Point system in the Directorate-General for Trade, “to allow for a responsive, focussed and structured process.” The complaints procedure is open to Member States, individual companies, business/trade associations, civil society organizations and citizens from the EU.
FMC to Investigate Unfair Fees, Container Practices by Carriers
The Federal Maritime Commission will begin investigating whether ocean carriers are violating regulations on detention and demurrage fees, container returns and container availability for U.S. exports, the agency said Nov. 20. The investigation follows complaints from U.S. exporters and truckers that they often face unfair treatment at the ports of Long Beach, Los Angeles, New York and New Jersey. Agricultural producers, in particular, are aggrieved that foreign carriers are increasingly rejecting their exports in favor of shipping back empty containers to be filled with Chinese goods.
U.S. Farm Groups Urge Lighthizer to Stop EU Retaliation
Organizations representing U.S. agricultural producers called on the Trump administration to prevent the sector from being hit by tariffs recently announced by the European Union in the long-running Boeing-Airbus trade dispute. A total of 21 groups signed a letter to USTR Robert Lighthizer asking him and other federal officials to work with their European counterparts to remove both tariff and non-tariff barriers from various agricultural products. “Our traditional agricultural trade surplus is in desperate need of new markets. Accordingly, protecting and expanding U.S. food, beverage and agricultural exports to Europe should be a top priority,” the groups said.
Trump Cancels Speech on the ‘Future of Trade’ at APEC event
The White House confirmed that President Trump would not be making a planned appearance at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum being held in Malaysia. Though he has not attended an APEC meeting since 2017, Trump had been slated to deliver a keynote address titled “The Future of Trade” at the chief executives’ conference on Thursday. Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke mid-week on “Fostering a New Development Paradigm and Pursuing Mutual Benefit and Win-Win Cooperation.”
U.S. Tariffs Poised to Hit Austria, India, Italy in Retaliation for Digital Tax
The Trump administration is expected to soon issue the results of investigations into Austria, Italy, and India’s decisions to tax local revenue of Internet companies such as Google and Facebook Inc., which could pave the way for retaliatory tariffs. Determinations on the three countries are due because all of them have recently instituted so-called digital services taxes. The USTR launched probes this summer into the moves of at least 10 countries, citing Section 301 of the U.S. Trade Act of 1974, which allows it to retaliate for trade practices it deems unfair.