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America first and increased enforcement of U.S. trade laws

Author(s): Taylor Schappert, Peter Glossop, Riyaz Dattu

June 6, 2017

Our last international trade brief dealt with NAFTA renegotiations being set in motion after Trump’s final notice to Congress, the imminent implementation of CETA, and a Trade Case Alert relating to Canadian anti-dumping duties being imposed for certain fabricated industrial steel components that can be anticipated to affect various infrastructure projects. In this brief, we discuss Global Affairs Canada seeking comments on NAFTA renegotiations, the increased enforcement of U.S. trade laws, a Trade Case Alert pertaining to anti-dumping import duties for gypsum panels shipped to Western Canada, and a Trade Case Alert dealing with a global safeguard investigation into solar panels imported into the U.S. 

On May 23, 2017, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced a $113.5-million funding request for the Commerce Department, which would include an additional $3.8 million to the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS). The funding is intended to support 19 new special agents within the agency’s export enforcement office. The BIS is tasked with advancing U.S. national security, foreign policy and economic objectives by ensuring effective export control and treaty compliance.

The BIS took the lead in a five-year investigation against China’s ZTE Corp., which led to a record-breaking US $1.192-billion penalty announced earlier this year. During a House Appropriations Committee hearing on the Commerce Department’s budget request, Ross said that “BIS took the lead in cracking this case open. So I am confident that these 19 additional agents, and the bandwidth they represent, will have real impact.”

The announcement of the funding request reaffirms statements made by members of Trump’s administration that the U.S. intends, as part of its America first policy, to increase efforts to identify persons and companies that act in violation of U.S. trade laws. Due to the extra-territorial application of U.S. export control and economic sanctions laws, Canadian companies will need to be extremely diligent in ensuring ongoing compliance with all U.S. trade laws and in particular export control and economic sanctions laws that have recently attracted record-breaking fines when violations have been uncovered.