Understanding how your company fits into the overall international trade regime and the tools available to increase competitiveness in global markets is critical to success in today’s global markets. Our International Trade group helps clients identify and seize opportunities presented by U.S. and international trade agreements and rules to expand and defend their markets in the United States and abroad. We advise companies on how to use these rules to reduce costs, increase market share, protect important markets and defend their intellectual property (IP).
Companies that export, import and invest in global markets are subject to individual countries’ domestic laws, regulations and policies, as well as the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and trade and investment agreements. International financial institutions and standard-setting bodies interact with government policies and add another layer of complexity to global commerce that affects corporate growth strategies. Taking advantage of, or even changing, these often overlapping and sometimes inconsistent requirements is a necessity for companies, industries and governments that seek to attain their objectives around the world.
Members of our Trade Policy practice have multidisciplinary experience in law, economics, politics and cross-cultural communication that helps clients effectively navigate the global market. We advise U.S. and multinational companies and foreign governments on a range of trade policy projects. Clients rely on us to represent their interests before both chambers of Congress and executive branch agencies such as the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR); the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Homeland Security, State and Treasury; and the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC). We provide comprehensive representation on trade policy matters, including lobbying U.S. government officials to encourage them to take actions or adopt policies that benefit our clients.
The senior members of the practice speak and publish frequently, teach trade law as adjunct professors, and are leaders of international law organizations such the American Society of International Law (ASIL), Institute of International Economic Law and National Foreign Trade Council. Our members have been recognized as among the world’s best trade lawyers by Chambers (U.S. and global editions), The International Who’s Who of Trade and Customs Lawyers and The Guide to World’s Best International Trade Lawyers.
Within our group are former government officials, including a former legal adviser to the chair of the U.S. International Trade Commission and executive assistant to the Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade, as well as seasoned practitioners with decades of experience advising clients in the private sector. We rely on our substantive experience and strong relationships with government officials built over decades of practice to serve our clients’ interests. Where appropriate, we register as and collaborate with other lobbyists who are former congressional members or staffers or former high-level executive branch officials. This allows us to work most effectively on the particular task and address the issues on multiple fronts when necessary.
We employ a variety of tools and approaches to help our clients use U.S. trade policy and international trade rules to achieve their business goals, including:
Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB). The MTB provides a legislative vehicle that companies can use to decrease the duties on products they import, if the products are not produced or are in short supply in the United States, in which case tariff protection is unnecessary.We work with congressional representatives, USTR and other agencies to use the MTB to obtain significant tax relief for clients.
Generalized System of Preferences (GSP). The GSP program provides preferential treatment (i.e., zero duties) to imports of a large number of products from developing countries under the theory that increased access to U.S. markets will strengthen these countries’ economies. However, not all products are covered and various exceptions apply to continuation of benefits. Every year, USTR considers requests to add or remove products and to maintain benefits that might otherwise be cancelled. We help companies that seek either to extend and preserve benefits (e.g., benefits that accrue to inputs) or to reduce or eliminate benefits (e.g., benefits on competing products).
Duty drawback and Foreign Trade Zones (FTZs). If certain conditions are met, U.S. Customs law allows companies to reduce their duty liability through duty drawback or an FTZ. We help companies design and implement FTZ and duty drawback schemes to reduce their customs duty payments.
Section 301/Special 301. USTR oversees these two related processes. Section 301 requires USTR to investigate formal allegations of unfair trade practices by other countries, as with the investigation of China’s subsidies in the clean energy sector requested by the United Steelworkers Union in 2010. A Section 301 investigation can lead USTR to initiate bilateral negotiations or a WTO dispute. Under Special 301, which addresses foreign countries’ practices with regard to IP protection, USTR collects information from U.S. companies (and others) and publishes an annual report on the degree to which foreign countries fail to respect U.S. IP. We help clients navigate the Section 301 and Special 301 processes, including petitioning USTR for relief and then pressing for action on behalf of clients.
Bilateral negotiations, NAFTA and WTO dispute settlement. Industries can raise concerns about unfair foreign activity with USTR (and Congress and other U.S. government agencies) through informal channels. They also can ask USTR to negotiate bilaterally with the country involved or to initiate WTO negotiations or dispute settlement proceedings. Successful negotiations or resolution of a WTO complaint can help a company move forward with its growth plans. Our significant experience with negotiations, NAFTA and WTO disputes includes advising clients throughout each stage of these processes, from setting and implementing strategies to assisting in negotiations or dispute settlement.
Free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations. FTA negotiations provide a vehicle by which a company can obtain an objective in a specific market or set of markets. Objectives can range from increased access to another country’s market for the company’s product or service, to removal of barriers to establishing a commercial presence, to stronger protections for the company’s IP. We can help companies ensure that their concerns are considered, and their goals achieved, in the context of FTA negotiations.
Use of trade remedy laws. Sometimes a company may need to seek relief from unfair competition. A U.S. industry can pursue relief in the form of increased duties, quotas and/or bans on imports of competing products by filing a petition seeking antidumping duties, countervailing duties, safeguard measures or Section 337 relief with the relevant agencies (Department of Commerce and/or the ITC). These measures are also available in other countries, many of which are aggressively applying them. We have significant experience with trade remedy cases and provide the full range of services to clients seeking to protect important markets from competition.
For more than 20 years, we have advised companies and governments on a wide variety of trade policy matters, including:
- Using the MTB to attempt to obtain favorable Customs treatment of imports on which our clients rely.
- Securing congressional sponsors for individual company private relief bills.
- Advising a major U.S. information services provider in efforts to obtain and preserve access to major Asian markets, including China.
- Building congressional support for increased enforcement by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
- Meeting with key members of Congress and administration decision-makers to convince them to support clients involved in trade remedy proceedings.
- Working with Congress and senior executive branch officials to conclude the bilateral agreement between the United States and Saudi Arabia that allowed Saudi Arabia to join the WTO.
- Advising companies, industries or countries involved in WTO disputes, such as the important test of the disciplines of the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures, where we advised the government of Korea and one of Korea’s largest semiconductor manufacturers.
- Representing and defending U.S. industry interests in upholding Commerce and ITC findings, including significant dumping margins and subsidies against agricultural imports into the U.S. market, before the NAFTA Article 1904 binational dispute settlement panel.
- Maintaining or expanding GSP treatment to benefit our clients that rely on imports, including adding new products and maintaining benefits for products subject to competitive need limitations.
- Representing parties involved in major Section 301 investigations such as the Fuji/Kodak dispute, Canadian wheat trading practices and the trade dispute involving bananas.
- Representing governments and other parties with interests in trade with countries identified under Special 301 (IP enforcement).
- Representing U.S. petitioners in protecting their highly sensitive video analytics and software technology in a Section 337 investigation before the ITC in connection with foreign IP rights infringement involving numerous U.S. patents.
- Representing parties before the ITC in Section 332 general fact finding investigations into trade and tariff matters.
- Representing parties involved in Section 201 (Safeguard) and Section 421 (China-Specific Safeguard) investigations, including investigations involving imports of steel, lamb meat, passenger tires and pedestal actuators.
- Representing clients in international negotiations under the Montreal Protocol on ozone-depleting substances, the Kyoto Protocol on global climate change and the Biosafety Protocol to the Biodiversity Convention.