On September 29, 2021, the inaugural meeting of the United States–European Union Trade and Technology Council (TTC) met to discuss and establish “common principles to update the rules for the 21st century economy.” Attending were U.S. Co-Chairs, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai, and EU Co-Chairs European Commission Executive Vice Presidents Margrethe Vestager and Valdis Dombrovskis. The TTC was established during the U.S.-EU summit in June 2021 under the new Biden administration as one commitment to renew their transatlantic partnership and initially discuss a Joint Transatlantic Agenda for “regular dialogue to take stock of progress.” See Update of June 17, 2021. Ambassador Tai emphasized during the meeting that the TTC is an important platform for assuring that the United States and the EU “remain global leaders in technology and innovation, projecting our shared democratic values internationally, and protecting fundamental labor rights.”

At the conclusion of the TTC meeting, the U.S. and EU issued a Joint Statement reaffirming TTC’s objectives: to coordinate approaches to key global technology, economic, and trade issues; and deepen transatlantic trade and economic relations, basing policies on shared democratic values. As a result of this first meeting, the U.S. and EU announced close coordination on a set of critical economic and technology issues, including:

  • Global trade challenges and addressing non-market, trade distortive practices: Seek to strengthen U.S.-EU competitiveness and technological leadership by developing common strategies to mitigate the impact of non-market practices at home and in third countries and by working to avoid new and unnecessary barriers to trade, especially in products and services derived from emerging technologies. The U.S. and EU also intend to use various tools to protect workers and labor rights, combat forced and child labor, and consult on relevant trade, climate, and environmental issues.
  • Semiconductor supply chains: Intend to enhance cooperation on measures to advance transparency and communication in the semiconductor supply chain and identify gaps, shared vulnerabilities, and opportunities to strengthen our domestic semiconductor R&D and manufacturing ecosystems with a view to improving resilience in the semiconductor supply chain.
  • Investment screening: Intend to exchange information on investment trends affecting security, including industry specific trends, origin of investments, and types of transactions, and on best practices with respect to analyzing and addressing risk, with a focus on sensitive technologies and related sensitive data.
  • Export Controls: Determine shared principles and areas for export control cooperation, including capacity building assistance to third countries to support multilateral export control regimes, prior consultations on current and upcoming legislative and regulatory developments, and developing convergent control approaches on sensitive dual-use technologies.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI): Develop and implement AI systems that are innovative and trustworthy and that respect universal human rights and shared democratic values, explore cooperation on AI technologies designed to enhance privacy protections, and undertake an economic study examining the impact of AI on the future of our workforces.

In a post-meeting news conference, Secretary Blinken noted the United States and EU represent two of the world’s largest economies and, thus, “have a unique ability to help shape the norms, the standards, the rules that will govern the way technology is used, the technology that affects the lives of virtually all of our citizens. We have an ability to set the pace, to set the standard.” While the next meeting of the TTC has not been announced, the Joint Statement does provide details for the future focus and scope of work for each of the 10 TTC Working Groups.

On December 8, 2020, the United States and Ecuador signed a new Protocol on Trade Rules and Transparency that updates the U.S.-Ecuador Trade and Investment Council Agreement (TIC Agreement).  The Protocol adds four new annexes on (i) Customs Administration and Trade Facilitation, (ii) Good Regulatory Practices, (iii) Anticorruption and (iv) Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises.  In a brief press release, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer stated, “Today’s Protocol builds on the existing TIC Agreement to establish high standards for efficient customs procedures, transparency in regulatory development, anti-corruption policies, and cooperation and information sharing to benefit small and medium-sized enterprises.  This Protocol is an important step in establishing closer economic ties between our countries.”

On customs administration and trade facilitation, the Protocol includes, for example, provisions on advance rulings, penalties and automation, which go well beyond the baseline of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement. On good regulatory practices, the Protocol includes, for example, provisions for the online publication of draft regulations, regulatory impact analyses and transparency, and the assessment of the effectiveness of regulations. On anti-corruption, the Protocol expands both countries’ frameworks to include provisions addressing money laundering, effective sanctions, the accountability of public officials, and additional protections for whistleblowers. Regarding small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), the Protocol recognizes the importance of small businesses, including micro-sized businesses, to the economies of both countries, and includes provisions promoting cooperation to increase trade and investment opportunities for SMEs.  A Fact Sheet on the four annexes is available here.

The Protocol will go into effect once each party has notified the other that it has completed the internal procedures required for the entry into force.

On June 15, 2021, the United States and European Union (EU) issued a joint Summit Statement trumpeting a “renewed transatlantic partnership” at the conclusion of President Joseph Biden’s first trip abroad as president.  The statement establishes a Joint Transatlantic Agenda “for the post-pandemic era, and … regular dialogue to take stock of progress.”  The leaders committed to: (i) end the COVID-19 pandemic and “prepare for future global health challenges, and drive forward a sustainable global recovery”; (ii) protect the Earth and foster green growth; (iii) strengthen trade, investment and technological cooperation; and (iv) “build a more democratic, peaceful, and secure world.”  They also committed to uphold and advance “the rules-based international order with the United Nations at its core, reinvigorate and reform multilateral institutions where needed, and cooperate with all those who share these objectives”.

While broadly addressing trade, investment and technology cooperation, the U.S. and EU have committed to “drive digital transformation that spurs trade and investment, strengthens our technological and industrial leadership, boosts innovation, and protects and promotes critical and emerging technologies and infrastructure.”  In doing so, a U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council will be established to focus on:

  • growing bilateral trade and investment relationships;
  • avoiding new unnecessary technical barriers to trade;
  • coordinating, seeking common ground, and strengthening global cooperation on technology, digital issues and supply chains;
  • supporting collaborative research and exchanges;
  • cooperating on compatible and international standards development;
  • facilitating regulatory policy and enforcement cooperation and, where possible, convergence;
  • promoting innovation and leadership by U.S. and EU firms; and
  • strengthening other areas of cooperation.

Regarding U.S. Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum imports implemented under former President Donald Trump and the resulting EU retaliatory tariffs, the statement notes that the United States and EU will engage in discussions to resolve existing differences “before the end of the year” and to “resolve tensions arising from the U.S. application of tariffs on imports from the EU”.  The parties are committed to ensuring the long-term viability of U.S. and EU steel and aluminum industries and to addressing excess global capacity.

On other trade issues, the statement mentions (i) the recent Cooperative Framework addressing the longstanding U.S.-EU World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute involving large civil aircraft (see Update of June 15, 2021); (ii) plans to work cooperatively toward meaningful WTO reform; (iii) efforts to foster a fair and modern international tax system (see Update of June 2, 2021); (iv) coordination on shared concerns regarding China and ongoing human rights violations and respecting international law; (v) a “principled approach” toward Russia and its “repeating pattern of negative behavior and harmful activities”; (vi) opposition to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; and (vii) the facilitation of the return of the United States to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) as well as the full and effective implementation of the JCPOA by Iran.

UPDATED: April 6, 2020 – Major operational changes continue at trade-related U.S. government agencies and courts due to personnel and public safety concerns over the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States. Below is currently available information on their status. Overall, the Office of Personnel Management has announced that as of March 16, 2020, and until further notice, federal offices nationwide are open but “maximum telework flexibilities” are in place for all eligible employees “pursuant to direction from agency heads.”

Trade Agencies and Court Status

U.S. Department of Commerce – While Commerce has published no formal notice of its operating status, it is known that the main Commerce building was closed on March 31 until further notice. Access to the Herbert C. Hoover building is now restricted to only necessary security and maintenance staff, and “mission critical” employees are in contact with their supervisors. The International Trade Administration (ITA) has temporarily modified its antidumping and countervailing duty (AD/CVD) cases to facilitate the serving of documents through electronic means. Effective March 24, 2020 and until May 19, 2020, documents containing business proprietary information (BPI) may be served on opposing counsel via ITA’s online ACCESS data portal instead of the normal requirement for hard-copy “in-person” service. Further, the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) has canceled its export control forums scheduled for April 2020.

U.S. Department of the Treasury – While Treasury has published no formal notice of its operating status, the “public engagement” schedule remains empty, indicating that all outside meetings and events have been canceled. The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has not indicated yet whether its operations have been affected.

U.S. Department of State – The Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) has stated that its core activities across its Licensing, Compliance, Policy, and Management offices continue to function within the parameters and adjustments that have been made as the agency follows OPM guidance.

  • Licensing activities: All electronic application systems are currently in normal operational mode and new licenses continue to be accepted for processing; however, a longer than normal processing time should be expected.
  • Registration, Commodity Jurisdiction Requests and General Correspondence: These filings via the Defense Export Control and Compliance System (DECCS) continue and are being processed as they are submitted; responses may be delayed by the current operational environment.

DDTC states that it has established a new option for industry to submit disclosures and related information (e.g., exhibits, extension requests and responses to DTCC inquires) by allowing submissions via email to DTCC-CaseStatus@state.gov. In the event that a disclosure cannot be submitted via email, DDTC indicates that the continued use of regular U.S. mail is acceptable.

U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) – The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative has still offered no update on its operating status within the Executive Office of the President.

U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC)The ITC stated that it is open for business while it continues to monitor the situation. Since March 17, all ITC employees have been teleworking full-time. The secretary’s office will accept only electronic filings during this time. Filings must be made through the ITC’s Electronic Document Information System (EDIS) at https://edis.usitc.gov. No in-person, paper-based filings or paper copies of any electronic filings will be accepted until further notice. The ITC building is now closed to the public entirely through at least April 24, 2020.

  • Section 337 Hearings: Administrative law judges (ALJs) have been ordered to postpone any hearings until after May 12, 2020. All discovery will continue and any essential outside participation by staff will be decided on a case-by-case basis.
  • Title VII Matters: Until further notice, no in-person preliminary phase Title VII (antidumping and countervailing duty) staff conferences will be held for new and ongoing investigations. Instead, interested parties will have the opportunity to provide opening remarks, witness testimony, and responses to staff questions through written submissions, in addition to post conference briefs. Information and guidance will be provided to parties by the investigative staff in each affected investigation. All ITC Title VII votes will be conducted by notation; there will be no in-person vote for the next 60 days. Until further notice, no in-person hearings will be held for final phase Title VII investigations, five-year (sunset) reviews, and those held under Section 332 and Section 131. In lieu of in-person hearings, staff will provide specific information and guidance to parties in each affected investigation on alternative means of providing information to the commission. Interested parties will be invited to provide opening remarks, written testimony, and responses to questions issued by the commission with certified written responses; parties may also be invited to participate in virtual or telephonic closing and/or rebuttal statements. The ITC has prepared a COVID-19 related set of FAQs.
  • Electronic service of documents has temporarily been implemented for most ITC issuances. Public documents will continue to be made available via the ITC’s electronic record, EDIS. In addition, temporarily, confidential documents will be made available to authorized parties via Box (box.com). Service of confidential documents will be considered effected upon notification via email to other parties/counsel in ongoing investigations that the documents are available for download.
  • Agency Meetings, Seminars and Briefings: All scheduled in-person meetings with outside persons have been cancelled or postponed.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) – CBP refers users to DHS.gov/coronavirus for information related to the COVID-19 pandemic, where it states that “all air, land and sea Ports of Entry (POEs), CBP Officers (CBPOs) and Border Patrol Agents (BPAs) continue to identify and refer individuals with symptoms of COVID-19 or a travel history to China, Iran, or certain European countries in the past 14 days to CDC or local public health officials for enhanced health screening.”

In order to streamline communications and support the trade community, CBP launched the CBP COVID-19 Updates and Announcements web page specifically dedicated to the most recent trade-related information and messaging on the impacts of COVID-19. Information found on the web page includes Federal Register notices and Cargo Systems Messaging Service communications related to COVID-19, as well as updates and announcements in trade programs and cargo security.

DHS continues to state that the “routing of all flights with passengers who have recently been in China, Iran, and certain European countries through select airports with established resources, procedures and personnel is an important, prudent step DHS is taking actively to decrease the strain on public health officials screening incoming travelers and protecting the American public.”

U.S. Census Bureau – Many U.S. Census Bureau employees are operating remotely via telework. During this time, call centers and email inboxes will remain open to assist customers’ daily trade needs. However, the agency will have limited access to physical mail. For those companies that are submitting a Voluntary Self-Disclosure (VSD) or data request, please make the submission electronically to the Trade Regulations Branch (TRB) in a password-protected file to emd.askregs@census.gov (for VSDs) or Data User & Trade Outreach Branch (DUTOB) to tmd.outreach@census.gov (for data requests). Additionally, such submissions may be sent to the bureau’s secure fax at 301-763-8835.

U.S. Court of International Trade (CIT) – According to CIT’s statement of April 2, 2020, courthouse access has been temporarily restricted until further notice. The staff of the Office of the Clerk is available by telephone and email. The court’s CM/ECF system continues to be operational during this time and unless otherwise ordered, all filing deadlines will remain in effect.

Any filings that are permitted by the Rules of the Court to be made by mail or delivery should be addressed to:

Office of the Clerk – Case Management
U.S. Court of International Trade
One Federal Plaza
New York, NY 10278

Any filings that are permitted by the Rules of the Court to be made in person should be brought to the court security officers at the courthouse. The court notes “that there will be delays in processing documents that are mailed or delivered to the courthouse.”

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit – Per a public advisory notice and an administrative order, the Federal Circuit began restricting public access to the National Courts Building complex on March 16, 2020. On March 19, the court issued an updated public advisory stating that all cases scheduled for argument during the April 2020 sitting will now be conducted by telephone conference and no in-person hearings will be held.

The Clerk’s Office has issued new guidance on how counsel may accomplish service outside of CM/ECF, which is most frequently required when serving pro se parties or confidential materials. Individuals, including pro se litigants and couriers wishing to deliver or to file case documents, must submit these items either by mail or by deposit in the court’s night box. Mail and third-party commercial deliveries will be limited to the lobby. Any other deliveries must be coordinated ahead of time with relevant court staff.

Useful U.S. Government Website Links

The U.S. government has established multiple websites to assist the public:

U.S. Government International Trade-Related Websites:

International Resources

Additional Resources

Thompson Hine has launched a multidisciplinary COVID-19 Task Force to monitor the latest developments and guidance from public health officials and assess the potential impacts on our clients and their businesses. The COVID-19 Task Force page on our website provides a centralized location for recent publications, webinars, articles and resources that you may find helpful.

As the novel coronavirus pandemic alters our daily lives, how we interact with each other and how we conduct business, Thompson Hine’s Trump and Trade editors are providing these web links to helpful government and international organization resources. We will update this post as additional websites focused on the global COVID-19 response become available.

The U.S. government has established multiple websites to assist the public:

U.S. government international trade-related websites:

International resources:

Thompson Hine has also launched a multidisciplinary COVID-19 Task Force to monitor the latest developments and guidance from public health officials and assess the potential impacts on our clients and their businesses. The COVID-19 Task Force page on our website provides a centralized location for recent publications, webinars, articles and resources that you may find helpful.

On April 29, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order creating the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy (OTMP) within the White House. Peter Navarro, who was previously named to head the White House’s National Trade Council which was never formally established, will lead the office.

OTMP’s stated mission is “to defend and serve American workers and domestic manufacturers while advising the President on policies to increase economic growth, decrease the trade deficit, and strengthen the United States manufacturing and defense industrial bases.” It will serve as a liaison between the White House and the Department of Commerce and undertake trade-related special projects as requested by the president.

As reported in our post of January 25, 2019, members of the 116th session of Congress are seeking ways to address President Donald Trump’s authority to unilaterally impose tariffs under various statutes. This trend continued on January 30, 2019, with the bipartisan introduction of the Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act. Introduced by Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Pat Toomey (R-PA), this bill would restore to Congress its Article I constitutional authority over foreign trade and commerce, specifically focusing on tariffs implemented under the claim of “national security.” The senators stated that recent Trump administration Section 232 actions have been economically disruptive and have damaged U.S. relationships with its allies, including Mexico, Canada, Japan, the EU and India. Continue Reading Additional Legislation Introduced in Congress Seeks to Curtail Executive Branch’s Authority to Implement Section 232 Tariffs

As comments in the ongoing Section 232 investigation into steel imports are being filed, we highlight two recent submissions that reflect the dichotomy of views on this trade issue. Both the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) and the National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC) filed comments with the Department of Commerce on May 31, 2017. AISI represents members of the steel industry that account for nearly 70 percent of U.S. steelmaking capacity. NFTC represents more than 200 U.S. companies with over $3 trillion in worldwide sales, including companies that rely on the steel industry.

AISI Comments:

“[T]he U.S. steel industry has relied on our trade laws to seek to address the impact of unfairly traded steel imports in our market. While the antidumping and countervailing duty laws have provided some relief … they leave openings for steel products not subject to orders to continue to surge into our market. … The U.S. steel industry has been severely impacted by repeated surges in dumped and subsidized imports that have flooded the U.S. market in recent years. These surges are the result of foreign government interventionist policies in the steel sector that have fueled massive and growing global overcapacity in steel, particularly in China. If left unaddressed, this global steel crisis will threaten the very viability of the U.S. steel industry, and therefore will threaten the national security of the United States.” AISI urges the Department of Commerce to use the Section 232 investigation to implement a “more comprehensive and broad-based” solution to safeguard national security. See AISI’s full comments.

NFTC Comments:

“We are … extremely concerned about the notion of seeking to remedy unfair trade or global overcapacity through an overly broad definition of ‘national security’ and the use of sweeping trade restrictions under Section 232. We do not believe that this is the proper role of a ‘national security’ related remedy, which should be more narrowly focused on two considerations: (a) what specific national security needs are not being met; and (b) whether a targeted remedy that is not unduly disruptive to the rest of our national economy can ensure essential supply to our defense sector. If the focus is something different, such as to remedy unfair trade practices, we believe the proper course of action is for the industry to seek relief under the laws established for those purposes, such as the antidumping and countervailing duty laws. These laws have well-established procedural requirements for determining injury and assessing the appropriate scope and level of remedies.” NFTC urges the Department of Commerce to balance the interests of steel consuming industries “against the advisability of restrictions for national security reasons,” the uncertainty that could be introduced if any “broad-based” or “sweeping” restrictions or trade barriers are created, and the potential for retaliation. See NFTC’s full comments.

On October 1, 2021, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) announced that the United States and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (Vietnam) reached an agreement resolving the Section 301 investigation into Vietnam’s alleged import and use of timber illegally harvested or traded. The investigation was initiated in October 2020 by former President Donald Trump. See Updates of October 6, 2020 and November 25, 2020. In the investigation, the Office of the USTR alleged that Vietnam relies on imports of timber harvested in other countries and that the “evidence suggests that a significant portion of that imported timber was illegally harvested or traded (illegal timber). Some of that timber may be from species listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).” According to a USTR press release, the agreement reached between the United States and Vietnam “secures commitments that will help keep illegally harvested or traded timber out of the supply chain and protect the environment and natural resources.” While Ambassador Katherine Tai, the USTR, indicated that no trade action will occur, the USTR will monitor Vietnam’s implementation of the agreement.

The Agreement between the Governments of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and the United States of America on Illegal Logging and Timber Trade (the Agreement) contains multiple commitments on issues related to illegal timber, including:

  • Vietnam’s treatment of confiscated timber.
  • Financial incentives related to illegal timber.
  • Customs inspections and clearance.
  • Entities covered by Vietnam’s timber legality assurance system.
  • The criteria used to classify a third country as a “positive geographical area exporting timber to Vietnam.”
  • The verification of domestically harvested timber.
  • The implementation of certain licensing schemes.
  • Cooperation with the governments of third-country sources of imported timber.
  • Illegal timber activities in third countries or involving third-country nationals.
  • Verification and enforcement measures.
  • Cooperation between the parties’ respective law enforcement agencies to combat the harvest and trade of illegal timber.
  • Creation of a timber working group under the U.S.-Vietnam Trade and Investment Framework Agreement Council.
  • Public information and participation on matters related to the implementation of the Agreement.
  • Cooperation on technical assistance and initiatives to promote sustainable forest management and to combat illegal logging and associated trade.

According to the Office of the USTR, this was the first Section 301 investigation to address environmental concerns. The Agreement notes that both countries agree “on the importance of the conservation and sustainable management of forests for providing environmental, economic, and social benefits for present and future generations, and the critical role of forests in providing numerous ecosystem services and habitat for wild fauna and flora.” The Agreement establishes various deadlines for Vietnam to implement programs and processes to address the treatment of illegal timber and to keep it out of the supply chain. Further, both countries’ law enforcement agencies will cooperate to combat the harvest and trade of illegal timber.

On April 2, 2021, President Joseph Biden issued an Executive Order terminating a previously declared national emergency and related sanctions against certain persons involved with the International Criminal Court (ICC). In June 2020, President Trump issued Executive Order 13928 declaring a national emergency due to the ICC’s “illegitimate assertions of jurisdiction over personnel of the United States and certain of its allies, including the ICC Prosecutor’s investigation into actions allegedly committed by United States military, intelligence, and other personnel in or relating to Afghanistan.” The ICC operates under the auspices of the Rome Statute, prosecuting cases of international concern, including war crimes and crimes against humanity. The United States is not a party to the Rome Statute. OFAC issued sanctions against certain ICC personnel in October. See Update of October 5, 2020.

President Biden terminated the Executive Order and stated that he has determined that, “although the United States continues to object to the ICC’s assertions of jurisdiction over personnel of such non-States Parties as the United States and its allies absent their consent or referral by the United Nations Security Council and will vigorously protect current and former United States personnel from any attempts to exercise such jurisdiction, the threat and imposition of financial sanctions against the Court, its personnel, and those who assist it are not an effective or appropriate strategy for addressing the United States’ concerns with the ICC.”