U.S. CBP New Regulations

This is an old blog we lost during our transfer of site hosting. Update on this topic is forthcoming in a future blog.

When foreign manufacturers sell below the cost of production or “fair market value”, it is known as “dumping.”  Dumping is a worldwide issue and phenomenon.  Every country and trade block, and virtually every major multinational and/or trade union is claiming “foul” with regard to some competitor.   The U.S. attempts to offset any gap in pricing by applying a duty specifically calculated, case by case, to increase the selling price to our evaluated fair market value. Countervailing duties involve a similar issue, arising when a foreign government provides benefits such as tax incentives to exporting companies.  Countervailing duties are adjusted to fit each country’s specific policies, while dumping is calculated per shipment. Because of the need for clarity with ever-changing cost, incentive, rates and duties, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has published new procedures for claim investigations dealing with the evasion of antidumping (“AD”) and countervailing (“CV”) duties as follows.  The purpose is to create additional avenues for spurring investigations of the preceding potential issues.   These are double-edged swords: opportunities for U.S. companies and additional risks for overseas entities.   We are always glad to advise from either perspective.

The Changes

  • Scope and purpose of the interim regulations: These regulations intend to clarify deadlines and procedures that Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) must follow during the investigation of an alleged “evasion” of payment by an importer of product subject to AD or CV duties. Evasion is defined as the act by which “any amount of applicable antidumping or countervailing duties [is either] reduced or not being applied with respect to the covered merchandise.” Before the new standards were published, CBP was already authorized to handle AD and CV duty evasion through administering penalties for fraud or negligence. However, prior to the new procedures, if a private party submitted evasion allegations then they themselves did not have the benefit of formal investigative procedures.
  • Process for triggering an investigation: In order to trigger an investigation, the interim regulations give “interested parties” and federal agencies the ability to formally ask that CBP look into an alleged evasion. The regulations specify that an “interested party” refers to manufacturers, producers, exporters, or importers of the merchandise at issue based in the U.S. and overseas. Trade associations and unions comprised of these groups are also able to issue an investigation suggestion.
  • Initiation and notification of investigations ? and possible use of “interim measures”: Once the CPB receives a formal request from either a federal agency or “interested party,” they must evaluate the claim. If they find that the request “reasonably suggests” that the accused importer’s merchandise came into the U.S. through evasion, the CBP will open an investigation. The interim regulations allow CBP to take interim measures where it has a “reasonable suspicion” that the accused importer is evading an AD or CV order. These measures include the suspension of liquidation of the importer’s entries, requiring them to secure a single transaction bond, and ordering that they post a deposit in cash.
  • Creation of administrative record and possible use of adverse facts: Thanks to the interim regulations, CBP is now required to maintain an administrative record with all information it relied upon during the course of its investigation. When CBP is gathering information on an investigation, questionnaires and written correspondence with the parties will be the general methods used. The only material CBP is allowed to use during their assessment of fault is that which has been properly filed with respect to the new regulations. If a party does not cooperate with a CBP information request, then they may be subject to adverse inferences based off of the facts available. The regulations still stand in this situation, as only the information on file may be used pertaining to a non-cooperative party.
  • Treatment of confidential information and alternatives to filing allegation: the interim regulations do not provide for an administrative protective order (“APO”) mechanism. However, interested parties may request that CBP treat submitted information as business confidential information (“BCI”). According to the guidelines, BCI treatment is a right to privacy which will be granted in order to protect trade secrets and confidential commercial or financial information. Identification of the parties involved, description of the merchandise at issue, and specification of the basis upon which the alleging party is interested are all specified as ineligible for BCI treatment because they are so central to the investigation. Because their identity will likely be denied BDI treatment, interested parties may be deterred from lodging an allegation directly. In order to remain anonymous but still trigger an investigation, such parties should consider lobbying a separate federal agency to submit a referral to CBP instead of doing it themselves.
  • Determinations and Reviews: CBP has 300 calendar days, with the possibility of a 60 day extension for unique or especially complicated investigations, to issue a determination of evasion. If it finds that evasion has occurred, measures will be taken against entries of the merchandise at issue in union with the U.S. Department of Commerce (“DOC”). Additionally, the CBP will assess the appropriate duty rates in conjunction with the DOC, requiring the appropriate cash deposits to be made. Any party involved in the investigation has 30 days to request a de novo administrative review of the CBP’s determination as to evasion. At the close of administrative proceedings, CBP must issue a final administrative determination to the parties. The only possible review at this point would require judicial review by the U.S. Court of International Trade.
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