Tag: china

President Trump signs proclamation imposing tariffs on imported steel and aluminum

Exclusion requests for Sec 232 and 301 tariffs

New Tariffs: Steel, Aluminum, China

President Trump has announced new tariffs this year imposed on imports from various countries under two bases; first, he imposed a 25% steel tariff and 10% aluminum tariff under section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. This section allows the President to impose tariffs for national security reasons (the full reports and reasoning are available here).

Second, President Trump has announced a new 25% tariff against imports from China under section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 (full announcement here). The Chinese tariffs are designed to punish, or at least counter-act, unfair trade practices related to technology transfer, intellectual property, and innovation by China.

To date, the fact that these tariffs might only end-up hurting domestic industries is getting a lot of attention (there is a lot of tariff activity). There seems to be little awareness or recognition — both amongst importers and the news community as a whole — that there is very large loophole in both new tariffs: exclusions.

Exclusion Requests Are Fairly Granted

The section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum permit importers to request exclusions from certain products, on certain grounds. Initially, the official announcements and proclamations seemed to only permit exclusion requests on national security grounds, however, once the exclusion request form (steel) was published it seemed to permit exclusion requests to be filed for basically any reason (including insufficient U.S. availability, No U.S. Production, and “Other”).

Based on exclusions filed on behalf of our clients, exclusion requests for the 232 tariffs are being fairly (if not liberally) granted.

Now, the announcements with regard to the new section 301 tariffs being imposed also mention the possibility of requesting exclusions (announcement here):

USTR recognizes that some U.S. companies may have an interest in importing items from China that are covered by the additional duties. Accordingly, USTR will soon provide an opportunity for the public to request the exclusion of particular products from the additional duties subject to this action.  USTR will issue a notice in the Federal Register with details regarding this process within the next few weeks.

UPDATE (7/10/2018): USTR issued a news release (just before 5pm on July 6) about the Section 301 exclusion request process (HERE). The soon-to-be-published Federal Register notice is accessible HERE. The form that can be used for making the exclusion requests is available HERE.

Importers may be in a panic about the new tariffs; they should not. They should calmly consider requesting exclusions for the products so that the new tariffs will not apply to them, and they will not be required to pay the extra duties. Although the exclusion process can be done by anyone, as always, hiring an experienced attorney to advocate for the exclusion of the particular products will help to ensure the best result possible.

Want to discuss a possible section 232 or 301 exclusion?

If you’re interested in applying for an exclusion for section 232 or 301 tariffs, you can give us a call or complete the contact form below.

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A picture of nearly $150,000 in cash seized by CBP laid out on a table

Seizures of undeclared cash from Chinese nationals on the rise

In “Seizures of undeclared cash spike at Vancouver International Airport“, reporters for The Globe & Mail did a lot of good reporting work and present interesting information on customs cash seizures from Chinese nationals occurring in Canada.

For instance, in the past 3 years customs seized $13 million dollars from 792 Chinese nationals passing through the airport. The average seizure was $17,000. The substance of the article is that these people are bringing the money into the country to get it out of China’s economy (which they fear may crash), to buy homes and/or invest in real estate. This has artificially inflated the property values in cities like Vancouver, and the government there imposed a tax on foreign purchasers of real estate to cool the market. We’ve previously blogged about this in Cash From China Seized Due to Capital Controls and Why some Chinese travel with cash leading to airport seizures.

If you’re interested in customs cash seizures, you should definitely check out the entire article. However, I’ll quote what I find most interesting below:

As Vancouver’s housing market began sizzling, border guards at the nearby international airport were seizing millions of dollars in undeclared cash from Chinese citizens, with total amounts jumping 50 per cent in each of the past three calendar years, government data show.

According to the information, released to The Globe and Mail by a New Democrat MLA, during that period, border guards confiscated more than $13-million in hidden currency from 792 Chinese people passing through Vancouver International Airport, which is Canada’s second-busiest after Toronto. The average person had $17,000 in hidden bills, bank notes or drafts.

That is in addition to the $323-million declared at the airport by 20,000 Chinese citizens or passengers on flights to and from that country, during roughly the same period, according to data released to The Globe through a freedom of information request.

Experts say these sums of hidden and declared money, which dwarf the funds brought through the airport from other countries, were likely carried by some of the 922,000 people from China recently given 10-year temporary visas, which allow them to visit for up to six months at a time.

Former RCMP investigator and financial crimes specialist Kim Marsh said many travellers bring large amounts of money – or bank notes or drafts – instead of transferring them through institutional routes because they want to avoid paying taxes in Canada and get around Chinese currency laws that make it illegal for the average citizen to take more than $50,000 (U.S.) a year out of that country.

[ . . . ]

Daniel Kiselbach, a Vancouver-based tax litigator, said the vast majority of Chinese citizens bringing large amounts of cash into B.C. are “just trying to get along in life and they have legitimate reasons for having the money in their possession,” such as buying gifts for family members or paying for living expenses at university.

He said that these visitors have many disincentives to report their assets to the Chinese government and are likely just as suspicious of how information on their finances will be handled in Canada.

“Maybe that would get back to the Chinese government, I don’t know,” Mr. Kiselbach said.

Two years ago, Mr. Kiselbach tried to get Ottawa to divulge whether it has an agreement to share such information with China, as it does with the United States and other Commonwealth countries. Canada Border Services Agency does not make these agreements public, he said.

Vancouver MLA David Eby, housing critic for the opposition New Democrats, said he is concerned that the amount of cash seized from Chinese citizens at YVR rose from $2.8-million in 2013 to $6.4-million last year.

[. . . ]

Anyone can bring as much money as they want in or out of Canada as long as they declare any sum of $10,000 or more – otherwise it could be seized. Border guards at Vancouver airport confiscated $19-million in undeclared cash from 2013 to 2015, with almost three quarters of it belonging to Chinese citizens. (Upwards of 3,200 passengers arrive each day from flights originating in Hong Kong and mainland China, according to data from the airport.)

Experts say Chinese travellers could have several reasons for not declaring assets.

Mr. Kiselbach added that CBSA likely ramped up the scrutiny on Chinese passengers because it gives increased attention to citizens from countries deemed a high risk for activities such as money laundering and financing terrorism.

Hayley Howe, an anti-money laundering expert at Vancouver-based consulting firm MNP, said many foreign visitors may be unaware of Canada’s currency reporting requirements or unable to read the customs form properly when they enter or exit the country.

Has U.S. Customs & Border Protection  seized your cash?

If U.S. Customs & Border Protection has seized your cash, you need a lawyer. Read our trusted customs money seizure legal guide and can contact us for a free currency seizure consultation by clicking the contact buttons on this page.

An image of 11 counterfeit championship rings that were seized by Detroit U.S. Customs & Border Protection at Detroit Metropolitan airport.

Detroit CBP Seizes $680k in Counterfeit Championship Rings

CBP at Detroit Metro Airport seized $680,000 worth of counterfeit championship rings that were being imported into the United States from China. This counterfeit seizure by happened in April, but it is just now making the news.

That’s probably because the story finally made it from FP&F to CBP’s press department, or because the notice of seizure was finally mailed after a final determination by CBP that the rings were actually counterfeit. A valuation of $680,000 means that Customs is putting an MSRP value on each ring of $5,000.

Recall that each time you cause an importation of a counterfeit item into the United States it subject to seizure and you are subject to a penalty, as the importer, for up to the value of the goods if they were real. You can read more about that in our other articles on that topic: Importing Counterfeit Trademarks – Customs Seizures & Penalties; Part 1 and Part 2  (click to read).

The use of a fictitious name by the importer opens the importer up to additional liability beyond merely violation 19 USC 1526(e) (importing counterfeits), by charges involving fraud. Not a smart move. Here’s the story:

DETROIT— In late April, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Office of Field Operations at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport seized $680,000 (MSRP) in counterfeit NHL, NFL and MLB championship rings in a shipment that originated on a flight from China.

While conducting operations at a DHL consignment facility, the Cargo Enforcement Team selected and examined a shipment of rings from China, resulting in the discovery of 136 counterfeit championship rings from the National Football League, National Hockey League and Major League Baseball. In all, the counterfeit rings displayed the names and logos of several teams such as the Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants, Oakland Raiders, New Orleans Saints, and New York Jets. The shipment also included rings for the Chicago Black Hawks and the Boston Red Sox.

The company identified as the receiver of the rings used a fictitious name and was found to have previous copyright/trademark violations.

Have you had allegedly counterfeit merchandise seized by CBP in Detroit?

Not only do you have rights to contest the determination that the merchandise was counterfeit (like getting a sample of seized merchandise), but if you’ve been penalized we are very successful in getting penalties reduced or eliminated entirely. Click the contact button on this page to get in touch with us today!

Two red envelopes with Chinese characters on them and stuffed with U.S. dollars.

Why some Chinese travel with cash leading to airport seizures

One question I face from most Americans when I tell them that our customs law firm helps people recover from money after customs money seizure is, “Why would anyone travel with all that money?”

Two red envelopes (hongbao) with Chinese characters on them and stuffed with U.S. dollars.
Some Chinese bring money in red envelopes (hongbao) for the Chinese new year celebration to give to family

It’s a good question.The answer? Many foreign governments, China in particular, restrict the amount and method that its citizens can take from the country via capital-controls; when the economy tanks or the currency is devalued, it increases the desire to move the money into another country before the market gets worse.

A few years ago the Wall Street Journal did a story about rich Chinese trying to get their money out of China, in the form of cash, that illustrates this point. The story is Chinese Fly Cash West, by the Suitcase and it provides some insight into why people travel with Cash from China, and why Customs seizes this money from them at airports:

China restricts private citizens from taking out more than $50,000 per individual per year. While it is hard to enforce these restrictions, Chinese authorities are scrutinizing outgoing private cash amid a broad anticorruption drive and as worry grows over the risks of capital flight.

The money seized at airports represents just a sliver of private Chinese money pouring out, but highlights that Chinese citizens are turning to one of the oldest and simplest methods to evade those controls: taking cash out in a suitcase.

The articles goes on to say:

From 2009 to 2011, U.S. airport customs officers seized over $5 million in undeclared cash from Chinese citizens, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. That is 8.4% of the total seized and more than double the nearest amount for another nationality.

Transporting large amounts of cash isn’t necessarily illegal. Travelers must declare cash over $10,000 when they land in Canada or the U.S. Most undeclared cash is temporarily seized and subject to fines. If customs agents believe the cash comes from illegal activities, the onus is on the traveler to prove otherwise before it is returned.

I would correct this final paragraph with a few legal subtleties. If any amount of money is undeclared to customs, all of the money transported may be seized and, if legitimate source and use are not proven to Customs, will be forfeited forever (i.e., lost). This burden is on the traveler whether or not Customs believe the cash comes from illegal activities. It must always be proven.

Moving cash from China subjects a person to fines in China:

In China, violators of Beijing’s rules on moving out cash are also subject to fines. From 2007 to 2011, China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange levied such fines totaling 1.27 billion yuan ($202 million), according to the most recent data available.

The story goes on to state that seizures from 2009 to 2011 dramatically increased at airports in Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Houston and San Francisco for money seized by Customs from Chinese nationals. But the numbers seized by U.S. Customs were smaller than that seized by Canadian customs. Apparently because property rules rules and investor visas are easier to obtain.

The New York Times also published a story we tweeted about:

I’m sure the cash is flooding the U.S. market now for the same reasons. Customs will seize unreported money from any Chinese traveler or immigrant at any U.S. airport if they catch them.

CBP Fines Agricultural Products Smugglers $98,000

When you heard that someone is a smuggler, or that they’ve smuggled something you typically think of smuggling drugs or other nefarious types of products. Most people don’t realize smuggling is essentially just another word for concealing. Concealing can be accomplished by outfitting a vehicle or container to hide products, by hiding illicit product with legitimate products in the same shipment, or by falsely declaring the contents of a shipment on an invoice or manifest.

In the story we quote below, the “shippers and freight forwarders employ[ed] fictitious shipper names and addresses, and provide[d] unrelated cargo descriptions” in an effort to smuggle the goods into the country. The goods were prohibited agricultural goods that contained unsafe foods or a risk of harboring invasive insect species. CBP takes this very seriously in the wake of the destructive effects posed by species that arrived in the United States via importation, like the Emerald ash border (see our article on Regulated Wood Packaging Violations)

In the story, U.S. Customs & Border Protection Agriculture Specialists conducted a special operation to “interrupt an extensive network of purposely mislabeled and high risk agriculture products coming from Hong Kong, China, India, and Saudi Arabia that were “en route to various locations throughout the United States, including ethnic restaurants, food stores, and private residences.”

From the story, which you can read in full HERE, that the purchases were largely made by consumers over the Internet.

Various concealment methods were discovered during this operation. CBPAS found meat smuggled in fish packets and tea bags, fruits inside sealed cookie bags, loose and packaged seeds within candy wrappers, and seeds in foil-lined bags in an effort to avoid x-ray detection.

The prohibited contraband included fresh plums and other fresh plant products, eggs, propagative plant materials including invasive species, and fresh and processed poultry and pork products coming from countries with known virulent disease outbreaks such as Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) and Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD).

In total, this special operation yielded 1,104 inspected shipments, 73 shipments Returned to Origin (RTO), 198 Emergency Action Notifications (EANs), four mis-delivery penalties, and 98 mis-manifesting penalties netting a total of $98,000 in fines. Additionally, CBPAS destroyed over 900 pounds of contraband from 146 shipments and found 10 pest interceptions.

* * *

If you need help petitiong for the mitigation of penalties with customs you should contact our office by e-mail or call (734) 855-4999. We are experienced in defending customs penalties and preparing detailed and well argued petitions for mitigation of penalties or liquidated damages. You can also make use of our other articles, such as:

Customs penalties articles:

Customs Seeks to Enforce § 1592 Penalties for Misclassification at CIT

The industry website RubberNews.com has a story about a tire distributor called China Tire out of California who is facing a potential $17 million fraud penaltiy under 19 USC  § 1592 for allegedly fradulent, negligent, or grossly negligent mis-classification of certain bus and truck tires into the United States. According to the story, which relies on the government’s allegations filed in the Court of International Trade, China Tire basically did some broker-shopping after its first customs broker refused to re-classify its product into a duty free Customs Money Seizureprovision of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS).

Instead of classifying them as bus and truck tires, they were classified as duty-free pneumatic tires. This classification caught the attention of Customs and requests for information were sent out. China Tire responded to these requests that “they were pneumatic tires for passenger cars.” Subsequently, China Tire directed its broker to again change classification to tires that were for agriculture and forestry uses.

What followed were standard 19 USC  § 1592 administrative penalty proceedings:

In July 2011, CBP issued a pre-penalty notice against China Tire and its executives John Cheng and Licheng Wang. In that notice, the complaint said, Wang and Cheng were held jointly and severally liable for 253 false entries, with a proposed penalty of nearly $8.1 million.

China Tire’s fraudulent entries cost CBP more than $404,000 in revenue, of which more than $242,000 is still unpaid, according to the complaint.

The current complaint proposes three alternative counts against China Tire, based on charges of fraud, gross negligence or negligence.

If found guilty of fraud, China Tire would face a penalty of nearly $16.9 million, plus the unpaid tariff balance. If found guilty of gross negligence, it would face a penalty of just over $1.6 million, plus the unpaid tariffs. If found guilty of negligence, it would face a penalty of $808,000, plus the unpaid tariffs.

A prior disclosure of the mis-classification would have potentially substantially reduced China Tires’ liability. If you face duty or penalty liability with customs you should contact our office by e-mail or call (734) 855-4999. We are experienced in defending customs 592 penalties, disclosing potential violations through prior disclosures, responding to notices of penalties, and preparing detailed and well argued petitions for mitigation of penalties or liquidated damages. You can also make use of our other articles, such as:

Customs 592 penalties articles:

CBP Counterfeit Handbag Seizure

I am sharing this news releases from Customs & Border Protection because it has to deal with topics that we have discussed in previous articles, namely seizures by CBP for counterfeit importations. We previously discussed the notion of gray market goods and touched on the topic of counterfeit imports in our article called Trademark Infringement: Importing Gray Market Goods and Seizure by Customs. This article only says that the bags were “in violation of the Hermes protected trademark” but does not specifically say how they were in violation; because the news release goes on to say that these bags were concealed within a shipment of non-infringing merchandise it seems unlikely that this was an innocent mistake by an inexperienced importer. It shows an intent to commit a fraud.

Los Angeles — U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) officers and import specialists at the Los Angeles/Long Beach Seaport complex seized 16,053 counterfeit Hermes handbags in nine shipments from June 6 through September 17. All were in violation of the Hermes protected trademark.

Their combined domestic value of $295,665 contrasted to the manufacturer suggested retail price of $210,785,475 had they been genuine, illustrates the potentially high profit margins in such an illegal venture.

“CBP officers are trained to identify and interdict counterfeit goods, and this is a great example of how their training and expertise are employed every day in our ports of entry,” said CBP Director of Field Operations in Los Angeles Todd C. Owen. “These counterfeiters are not only cheating the legitimate designers and manufacturers of protected trademark merchandise, but also the public and the U.S. government,” he added.

Eight of the shipments were coming from China, one from China via Hong Kong. Two had the knock-offs hidden in the nose of the containers with concealing attempts of packing legitimate, non-infringing merchandise behind them.

Five different importers sent the shipments. All were destined to surrounding areas of Los Angeles except for one destined to Texas.

CBP Counterfeit Handbag Seizure
Approximately $1.26 billion worth of counterfeit goods originating overseas were seized by CBP in 2012. China, Hong Kong, Singapore, India and Taiwan are the top five countries of origination for counterfeit goods seized by CBP.

Nationwide, handbags and wallets comprised the greatest number of counterfeit items seized by CBP last year, with the value of seizures up 142 percent compared to 2011. Of the approximately $511 million in handbags and wallets seized, more than $446 million came from China.

Violations of trade laws, including violations of intellectual property rights laws can be reported to CBP online. ( e-Allegations Submission )

It looks like someone is going to be getting a notice of penalty CBP’s Fines, Penalties and Forfeiture’s office very soon. If you are facing penalties from CBP for items you have imported or for your import practices, call my office at (734) 855-4999 or e-mail us through our contact page.