Arent Fox's Advance Look at Hot Button Trade Issues For 2021

Our Trade Team Analyzes What Happens Next in Six Critical Areas
Aerial view of water and dock covered in shipping containers
Looking towards 2021 and a new Administration, Arent Fox's International Trade & Investment group has prepared a series of primers on six key areas that can impact your business: The Biden Transition, Special Tariffs, Customs, Trade Litigation, Export Controls, and Trade Policy. Each section contains short overviews of the critical trends in those areas. Click the links below to access each section.

To download a PDF copy of our complete analysis, click here

The last four years have been turbulent, to say the least, with more changes to come under the Biden Administration. Our aim is to help readers anticipate and prepare for these changes.

Clearly, some issues from 2020 will remain in focus: the changes brought about by the USMCA, marked increased application of trade remedies like antidumping, and the aggressive use of Sections 201, 232, and 301 tariffs will push on-shoring and regionalization of supply chains. Added to these are changes to export control rules that will complicate trade relations with China and restrict tech transfers and foreign investment. And new issues will emerge as the President-elect’s focus on Buy America accelerates these trends.

Together, they are tempered by the Biden Administration’s need to repair the damage done to US relations with key trading partners. We address these trends in detail below.

The Biden Transition

This is Washington and so we start and end with US trade policy. Our team is tracking the Biden Transition, starting with the introduction of Katherine Tai, nominee for the next US Trade Representative.

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Special Tariffs

Since trade policy almost always involves the application of tariffs, we begin with “China Tariffs – What to Expect from the Biden Administration,” an issue top of mind for many executives who have business interests in China and the United States.

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US tariffs are applied at the time of import and so the elevated role played by US Customs and Border Protection should not be underestimated. While the Customs section begins with the analysis “The Wait Is Over: USMCA Border Enforcement Begins,” we also widen the focus to include CBP’s proposal requiring new data sets from deeper into the international supply chain. This broader reach by the Administration is also demonstrated in “US Bans Certain Imports: Forced Labor in Focus.”

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Trade Litigation

When imports are suspected of violating US trade law or when they threaten US economic interests, trade litigation (read: trade investigation cases) kicks in. This section focuses on third-country transshipment concerns in the article “Using Third Country Components? Buyer Beware.”

We also bring to readers’ attention the Administration’s intent to expand the scope of US trade investigations. In “Trade Investigations by Commerce on the Rise,” we underscore this trend, starting with blueberries and strawberries, two agricultural commodities not historically the focus of US trade remedy law. They are now. As might be other agricultural products.

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Export Controls

Turning to the business of exports from the United States, the next section is a must-read for any company doing business in the United States or from the United States. Or for that matter, any company competing with affected US entities. As is the case with many trade enforcement efforts, there are winners and there are losers. For these reasons, we highlight the article “Export Controls: Business as Usual?”

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Trade Policy

Our final section returns to trade policy with three narrower but equally important articles – the first in regard to US renewal of GSP benefits and the tension between the Biden administration's promise to protect US workers while achieving climate goals. The last article, “Make Buy America Real - Biden To Seek Stronger Qualifying Rules,” is a useful reminder of where we started this project: US international trade policy will reflect the priorities of an Administration taking office in a time of domestic economic turmoil.

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