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Following a request from several influential members of Congress, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), issued a report in July on the administration of approved Section 232 duty exclusions for steel and aluminum. The review period was from March 2018 to September 2021. Various issues were discovered with the process by which the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) transmits data on approved exclusions to Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which is done via spreadsheets from which CBP must manually upload the data to the ACE system. CBP also stated that there is not an automated way for them to monitor exclusion usage against the approved total quantities allowed. CBP staff have to monitor the usage and manually deactivate an exclusion that has reached the total quantity limit. As a result of these issues, the GAO found that almost $32 million in duty exclusions were allowed by CBP for imports that had, in fact, exceeded the total quantities authorized under the particular exclusion.
In an appendix to the report, a review of the tariff rate and absolute annual quotas on steel and aluminum that are in effect from the European Union, Korea, Brazil, and Argentina revealed issues as well. CBP staff communicated that these quotas are very complex and laborious to administer, many of which were instituted without allowing adequate time for ACE to be programmed accordingly.
In a Federal Register notice, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced the opportunity for qualified, interested shippers to register as Certified Cargo Screening Facilities (CCSF). While the TSA had approved shippers to become CCSF’s previously when requested, the TSA had never fully integrated these operations into the Certified Cargo Screening Standard Security Program (CCSSSP). An incentive for shippers to consider becoming a CCSF is that, on October 31, the Impracticable to Screen (ITS) amendments that the TSA had in effect will expire. These amendments allowed cargo not easily screened due to the commodity packaging type or size to move via airfreight. After October 31, ITS cargo will require 100% screening. ITS cargo could be screened by the airline or other third-party service provider, however, higher costs for the shipper are likely to result.
To initiate the registration process, shippers must send an email indicating their interest to an address identified in the notice and TSA will respond with additional information regarding the application requirements.
Several prominent information technology associations, including the Semiconductor Industry Association, Retail Industry Leaders Association, and the Information Technology Industry Council, sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo expressing concern over the recent announcement by the Indian Government to require a license to import computers and related information and communication technology products into India. The licensing requirement is to take effect on November 1, 2023. One concern raised was that the licensing regime could make it difficult for U.S. companies with data centers in India to import servers into India that are needed for their operations. While the government announcement included certain exemptions, the associations requested more comprehensive details on the scope of the exemptions. Licensing requirements have also been used in the past as major non-tariff import barriers by various countries, which was another concern raised. The U.S. government was urged to request that India reconsider the implementation of the policy.
In an important recent decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled in the case, Royal Brush Manufacturing, Inc. vs. United States Dixon Ticonderoga Company, that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) violated the Fifth Amendment right to due process of Royal Brush by providing only redacted versions of reports that CBP utilized in making its determination that antidumping duty (ADD) evasion occurred in connection with an Enforce and Protect Act (EAPA) investigation. The EAPA investigation centered around pencils shipped from the Philippines to Royal Brush in the United States. CBP concluded that the pencils were of Chinese origin and were transshipped via the Philippines to avoid paying the ADD under case A-570-827 for Cased Pencils from China. However, in making this determination, CBP relied on reports from a verification visit made to the Philippine factory. When Royal Brush requested copies of the reports, production number data and photographs taken at the factory were redacted due to CBP deeming this information to be confidential business information. CBP stated that there was no provision in the EAPA law itself that empowered them to issue a protective order which could have allowed release of the confidential information. Royal Brush then filed suit in the Court of International Trade (CIT).
The CIT ruled in favor of CBP, then Royal Brush appealed. The appellate court stated in its decision: “In short, the law is clear that, in adjudicative administrative proceedings, due process includes the right to know what evidence is being used against one.” The decision further stated: “As best we can make out, the government’s argument is that due process does not require public disclosure of confidential business information relied on in adjudication but only requires disclosure to affected parties under protective orders… We are aware of no case supporting any such extraordinary theory, and it is untenable on its face. The right to due process does not depend on whether statutes and regulations provide what is required by the constitution.” The case was remanded back to the CIT for CBP to provide Royal Brush the redacted information and give them an opportunity for rebuttal.
In legal circles, it is believed that this decision could also have an impact on CBP’s investigations under the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act as CBP often does not release the evidence that it has compiled to the party whose cargo is being detained, which may now lead to court challenges of those decisions.