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First Complaint Against Section 301 China Tariffs Filed at Court of International Trade

Stephanie Salmon

A recently filed lawsuit could result in refunds of all Section 301 tariffs levied to date on List 3 from China. HMTX Industries, importers of vinyl tile, filed a complaint in September at the Court of International Trade (CIT) challenging both the substantive and procedural processes followed by the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) when instituting Section 301 Tariffs on imports from China under List 3. The List 3 tariffs went into effect on September 24, 2018, and contain thousands of products, including metal castings.

This is the first challenge of its kind filed against the administration’s use of Section 301 Tariffs in the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China. For more than two years the U.S. has assessed additional tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of Chinese goods pursuant to Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974. Although some exclusions from these tariffs have been approved, the vast majority of covered goods remain subject to these tariffs, which will continue to be assessed on future entries. 

The lawsuit asks the Court to vacate the List 3 tariffs, order to refund (with interest) any List 3 duties paid by the plaintiffs, permanently enjoin the U.S. government from applying List 3 duties against the plaintiffs, and award plaintiffs’ costs and reasonable attorney fees.  Importers had to file their own independent claims to preserve their potential refunds by September 21. More than 3,000 companies have joined the effort.  The Court isn’t expected to rule on this case until mid-2021.     

Congress passes short-term spending bill

Both chambers of Congress overwhelmingly approved a bipartisan bill to keep the government funded through early December and avoid a shutdown before the November election. The short-term spending legislation, known as a continuing resolution, would keep the federal government funded through Dec. 11. It provides a one-year extension of federal highway and transit programs—something that AFS, along with construction, manufacturing, and transportation advocacy groups, has pushed hard for. The current highway and public transit law, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, was set to expire on September 30.

Even if the stopgap lasts until December, lawmakers could still push the government funding deadline into early next year if there’s little appetite for bipartisan negotiations on a massive appropriations package during a lame-duck session. The House has already passed most of its spending bills, while the Senate hasn’t started its appropriations process yet.

House passes bill cracking down on companies that use China’s forced labor

A bipartisan bill aimed at keeping goods out of the U.S. that are made with the forced labor of detained ethnic minorities in China passed overwhelmingly in the House of Representatives by a vote of 406-3 in September. The House voted to declare that any goods produced in the Xinjiang region of northwestern China are presumptively made with the forced labor of detained Uighurs and other ethnic minorities, and therefore banned from being imported to the U.S. 

If enacted into law, it could have significant ripple effects in global trade by forcing companies to avoid a region that is one of the world’s top producers of manufactured goods and 80% of the cotton in China.

American Society of Civil Engineers calls for $338 billion for grid improvement

According to a report, Failure to Act: Electric Infrastructure Investment Gaps in a Rapidly Changing Environment, commissioned by the American Society of Civil Engineers, the U.S. electricity system will require $338 billion in investment within 20 years to accommodate the increasing use of renewable energy.

The nation’s transmission and distribution lines are old, built mostly in the 1950s and ‘60s. The grid is also facing stress from worsening extreme weather events. The report notes that based on current investment trends to ensure reliability, the grid needs $208 billion of investment by 2029, and $338 billion by 2039 across its three major components: generation, transmission and distribution.

Because the availability of wind and solar energy is based on weather conditions, the grid could struggle to keep the lights on and be reliable if these investments are not made. 

Furthermore, the new report found that most electricity infrastructure spending must occur in the West, accounting for 33% of the “investment gap,” and the Northeast and mid-Atlantic, responsible for 43% of that hole. Experts say updating transmission is especially key.