International Trade Customs Law
International trade law issues can be among the most complex in the world. Due to the reality that multiple jurisdictions overlap with the added touch of regional and international trade agreements; each export can carry with it a complicated set of regulations and laws. In fact, one of the greatest barriers into global markets is the lack of information businesses have in navigating customs law. Below are some of the issues merchants can face and where legal help may be needed.
Exports to the US
Several important agencies oversee the importation of goods into US ports. An already rushed delivery can be further delayed without proper trade compliance, documentation, and labeling that violates antidumping and countervailing duties imposed on items classified from certain origin countries. Accordingly, the US Customs and Border Protection agency has the authority to inspect, seize, fine, and demand further inquiry when shippers or goods fall into sometimes confusing categories. When notification from any federal agency is given, it’s important to be prepared and find solutions quickly before the problem worsens.
Similarly, countries that receive goods from the US may face similar scrutiny when regulatory benchmarks are not satisfied. Essentially termed “export controls”, some may appear bureaucratic in nature while others face serious violations of domestic law (i.e., failing to document electronic export information for goods over $2,500). When merchants hear the news that their goods have been seized, many are stunned to learn they must petition (or protest) the seizure within 30 days. For many in the trade industry, a Customs request for information can be the first step in what is to become a very serious inquiry that can jeopardize the shipment.
Antidumping & Countervailing Duties Law
Under Title VII, the Department of Commerce and the International Trade Commission hold the responsibilities in determining whether a foreign importer has violated US Tariff law by selling goods under fair value or those which have been subsidized by foreign government programs. This is done through a preliminary phase injury investigation. Where one agency determines whether either subsidizing or dumping exists, the other determines the degree.
The current state of retaliatory tariffs complicates AD/CVD issues in a very real way. Many, if not all, of the active political trade issues manifest at the ports of entry and affect all levels of industry. Therefore, seemingly distanced parties within the global supply chain will be affected by enforcement orders on goods subjected to heightened duties.
Intellectual Property (IP) Violations
Counterfeit goods and other electronic machinery that violates patents and IP protections are often initiated at the customs and border patrol entry. Often discovered through CBP investigations or through trademark recordation by the mark holders, heavy fines and the risk of incarceration are not uncommon. These issues can even stem from the often confused and misinterpreted grey market allowances which have their own exceptions.
Criminal Charges and Investigations
Many individuals and businesses are not aware that criminal charges can originate from investigations into goods brought into the US or other countries. Apart from the more obvious of illicit activities (illegal substances and counterfeit goods), some cases may elevate into full-scale criminal prosecutions when food labeling and other hazardous materials rise to level of extreme neglect such as intentional fraud. Political and public support has been the turning point for criminalizing import violations where product safety and gross evasion. Accordingly, CBP may forward their investigations to the Department of Justice for consideration of formal charges.