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 Another Day Another Tariff… and Other Recent Restrictions on China

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

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 Five Things You Must Know About Trade Wars

Since the U.S. Government determined that Russia interfered in the 2016 election[1], movement around Russia sanctions policy has been vigorous, if not unidirectional. In 2016, the United States implemented twice sanctions against Russia: In September, dozens of individuals and entities were sanctioned with regards to Russian operations in Crimea. In December, President Obama expelled 35 Russian intelligence agents from the U.S. and imposed sanctions on two major intelligence services, as a response to those interferences from Russia. In 2017, concerned that the new Administration might roll back certain sanctions on Russia, Congress overwhelmingly passed the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, codifying and adding to sanctions on Russia already in place (which we reported on here).

In January, we anticipated two more moves mandated under CAATSA: 1) the publication of a List of Senior Political Figures and Oligarchs in the Russian Federation and 2) sanctions against entities and individuals that had conducted significant transactions with the defense and intelligence sectors in Russia. It appears that one was a feint and the other, a flop.
Continue Reading Lurches, Leaps, Feints, and Flops: Movements Without Motion in Russian Sanctions Policy

The U.S. Congress is currently considering legislation that would tap the brakes on foreign direct investment in the United States, particularly on investments in sensitive industries like artificial intelligence, robotics, and semiconductors. We know: you’re saying we already have that in the form of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (known as CFIUS).
Continue Reading Seeking foreign investors for your tech startup? Congress says, “not so fast.”

While the Travel Ban continues to move up and down the federal court system, here are the latest rules governing travel for citizens of the affected countries as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s lifting of the lower courts’ injunctions on December 4, 2017, a December 22 ruling by the Ninth Circuit invalidating the latest travel ban but not enjoining it, and recent action by a Federal District Court in Seattle partially lifting the refugee ban on December 23, 2017:
Continue Reading Confused by the Evolving Travel Ban? Here’s a Cheat Sheet with the Latest Guidance

HERE WE ANSWER A FEW OF THE QUESTIONS THAT YOU MAY HAVE

What does decertification mean?

For the time being, decertification is a solely U.S. issue. Under the Iran nuclear agreement (known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA), Iran agreed to limits on its nuclear program in exchange for relief from U.S. and UN sanctions. Soon after the JCPOA was signed, the U.S. Congress passed the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA). That law requires the president to certify to Congress every 90 days that Iran is meeting the terms of the nuclear agreement and that continuing to waive sanctions on Iran is vital to the security interests of the United States. Today, he decertified Iran under INARA on the grounds that continuing to waive sanctions is not in the national security interests of the United States.
Continue Reading Today, President Trump Decertified the Iran Deal and Announced Tougher Sanctions on Iran

On Monday, August 14, President Trump signed an executive memorandum directing U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to consider a “Section 301” investigation against China. Now, many of us have heard the phrase Section 301 investigation and, as we do when we are at a party where everyone is talking about that movie we haven’t seen, many of us just nod along. For those of our readers putting on the brave smile, we present bit of background here on the following:

  • What Section 301 is;
  • How an investigations and further trade actions may proceed; and
  • What businesses should be most concerned.


Continue Reading Section 301: The Trade Law You May Not Know Well that Could Shock Industries

On July 17, 2017, the U.S. State Department certified that Iran continues to meet the conditions of the Iran nuclear agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. As a result, for the next 90 days, the United States will maintain significant reductions in its sanctions against Iran as provided in the JCPOA. Among other things, those provisions allow non-U.S. companies to do business in Iran. The State Department’s action signals that for now, State believes that the JCPOA is the right U.S. policy toward Iran.
Continue Reading One Year From Now, You May Be Out of Iran: Trump Administration Policy and the Timeline for Snapback

On July 27, 2017, the U.S. Congress sent to President Trump’s desk a bill that imposes new financial sanctions against Russia, Iran, and North Korea. It appears nearly certain that the president will sign that bill, now called the “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act” (CAATSA). Edit: President Trump signed the bill on August 2, 2017.
Continue Reading In the Chaos of (Trade) War, Where Does Your Company Find Peace?