5 Weird Things About the Trump Trade Agenda: Disruptive Innovation On a Global Scale

We’ll give him this: President Trump has an ambitious trade agenda. This fire has many irons in it, and some of them are getting hot. Here at the Global Trade Law Blog, we’ve been following trade law for approximately 250 years and we’ve never seen anything like it in breadth or scale. The administration asks us to trust that there is a disruptive and innovative grand strategy behind it, but to some of us it looks (particularly in comparison to a mostly orderly international trading system in place since 1945) like madness. The question of whether “yet there is method in’t” may only be answered by future historians. For the time being, herewith is our snapshot of the Trump trade agenda, late June 2018 edition. Continue Reading

On FIRRMA Ground: Congress to Restrict Foreign Investment and Expand Export Controls

This week, there were reports that the Trump Administration would use emergency powers to restrict Chinese investment in the United States. On Wednesday, the White House backed away from that position after the House of Representatives passed a bill on Tuesday expanding and increasing the powers of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). The bill is called the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act (FIRRMA). Continue Reading

Another Day Another Tariff… and Other Recent Restrictions on China

In what has become his trademark Trumpian manner, the President announced last Friday that new tariffs and trade restrictions against China are on again, at the same moment that his senior Commerce and Treasury Department negotiators were trying to work out a deal in Beijing. This came just a handful of days after Department of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced that the trade war with China was “on hold.” The President has declared again in a tweet Saturday that America “can’t lose” a trade war with China. We’ve debunked that fallacy here. But even if one accepts the premise that we should prosecute a trade war, it’s well established that a micromanaging general quickly loses the confidence of his ground troops. Wars have been lost for less. On trade, the President’s conflicting directives have everyone a little confused. Here are the highlights for the time being: Continue Reading

Your Way-Too-Early Guide to North Korean Investment: Big Opportunities, Big Risks, and the Regulatory Guidance to Identify Both

I spent last week in Seoul talking to clients about the latest changes to U.S. trade and sanctions policy (as South Korea is one of Iran’s largest trading partners, it is understandable that some concerns have arisen there in May). Interestingly, a topic that came up often was how to reenter the North Korean market. The people with whom I spoke, in industries ranging from financial, to manufacturing, to technology, to legal, were sanguine on the possibility of a détente and the resulting opportunities for investment, growth, and profit in a reopened North Korea. Continue Reading

Client Alert: Iran Sanctions Return

Key Points

1. All sanctions on Iran that were in place before January 2016 will be re-imposed no later than November, 4 2018.

2. Secondary sanctions that penalize non-U.S. persons doing business with Iran will be reinstated.

3. General License H, allowing non-U.S. subsidiaries of U.S. companies to do business in Iran, will be revoked.

4. In some cases, companies may take payments or repayments for sales, loans, or credits to Iran after November 4, 2018 Continue Reading

Five Things You Must Know About Trade Wars

On April 3, 2018, President Trump’s U.S. Trade Representative released a list of 1300 categories of Chinese goods that will be subject to 25% tariffs. That followed a tit-for-tat exchange in which President Trump announced a round of steel and aluminum tariffs on March 8, and China announced tariffs on U.S. imports worth around $3 billion on April 2 (including American pork, fruit, wine and steel pipes). On April 5, China responded with a list of $50 billion of U.S. goods that will be subject to increased tariffs (including aircraft, automobiles, and soybeans). That same day, Mr. Trump announced that he is looking for $100 billion additional Chinese goods to tax. Continue Reading

The Great Wall Against China: Washington’s Barriers to a Wave of Capital from the Far East

Chinese investment in the United States plummeted in 2017 and is likely to continue to fall. According to the Wall Street Journal, Chinese foreign direct investment in the United States declined 36% last year, from $46.2 billion in 2016 to $29.4 billion in 2017. We expect the 2018 figures to be even lower. What could explain the precipitous decline?

Well, haven’t you heard? We’re building a wall.

The United States Government is frantically throwing up barriers to foreign investment, particularly from China. The result of that effort is clear in the swooning Chinese investment numbers. It appears that trend of tightening our defenses will only continue through 2018 and beyond. Continue Reading

Digital Cops and Cyber Robbers: OFAC Guidance on Crypto Currency

A lot of us in the sanctions compliance world were wondering whether and when OFAC would issue official guidance on its application of sanctions in the digital currency world. On March 18, OFAC issued five FAQs related to virtual currency. Those FAQs convey two important messages:

(1) OFAC sanctions regulations apply to virtual currency transactions just as they apply to “fiat” currency (here’s looking at you dark web crypto-user); and

(2) OFAC will use its existing authority to respond to the growing threat posed by the use of emerging payment systems by malicious actors, including adding digital currency addresses that are associated with blocked persons to the SDN List.

While the first point – that OFAC compliance obligations apply to virtual currency transactions – is not groundbreaking news, the second point is more interesting. Our key takeaway from the FAQs is: OFAC is clearly thinking about how it will enforce its regulations on virtual currency transactions and digital currency operators, so you should too. Continue Reading

5 Steps to Obtaining an Exemption under President Trump’s Steel and Aluminum Tariffs

If your company is a U.S. consumer of imported steel or aluminum, the new tariffs announced by President Trump on March 8, 2018 are bad news. The good news is that you can petition the government for exclusions of certain products. Formal procedures for such petitions won’t be published until March 19. But there are steps you can take now to prepare. Continue Reading

Chips on Their Shoulders: CFIUS Intervenes in Broadcom’s Hostile Takeover Bid for Qualcomm

  • CFIUS takes an unprecedented step to fend off a potential foreign acquisition
  • The threat that China will eclipse the U.S. in telecommunications infrastructure and technology is central to U.S. national security
  • Five key takeaways from the most recent CFIUS action

Since late 2017, Singapore-based semiconductor company Broadcom has been pursuing a $117 billion hostile takeover bid for Qualcomm, its U.S.-based rival whose chips are omnipresent in U.S. telecommunications infrastructure, including consumer devices like smartphones and tablets. As part of its hostile bid, Broadcom nominated its own slate of six directors who were to be voted on at Qualcomm’s annual stockholders meeting, originally scheduled for March 6th. However, earlier this week the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) announced that it “issued an interim order to Qualcomm directing it to postpone its annual stockholders meeting and election of directors by 30 days. This measure will afford CFIUS the ability to investigate fully Broadcom’s proposed acquisition of Qualcomm.” Continue Reading

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