US CHINA TRADE WAR–TRUMP REAGAN TRADE DIFFERENCE SECTION 232 STEEL USERS 201 SOLAR NEW TRADE CASES BORDER ADJUSTMENT TAXES NAFTA

TRADE IS A TWO WAY STREET

“PROTECTIONISM BECOMES DESTRUCTIONISM; IT COSTS JOBS”

PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN, JUNE 28, 1986

US CHINA TRADE WAR JUNE 16, 2017

Dear Friends,

Trump’s trade war on downstream industries continues with exhibit number 1 being the Section 232 Steel case.  As indicated below, numerous comments were filed May 31st by downstream steel users saying that tariffs on steel imports will devastate their business and cost millions of jobs.

But the question is whether anyone is listening.  Commerce is rushing to turn out the Section 232 report by the end of June.  But it has received numerous comments, but many of those comments are only a few pages long.  The hearing itself limited testimony from each company to 10 minutes each.

When the US International Trade Commission (“ITC”) conducts a injury investigation in steel cases, it sends out numerous multiple page questionnaires to US Steel Producers, US importers, foreign producers and even US purchasers.  In addition to those questionnaire responses, it will often have prehearing and posthearing briefs that are many pages long.  In the recent Cold-Drawn Mechanical Tubing case, for example, we filed a brief that was over 200 pages long.

Now all Commerce Secretary Ross will have is the arguments of the US Steel industry and no in depth data regarding what the impact of these trade restraints will have on downstream users.

Moreover, there is a rush to judgement in the Section 232 cases.  In the ongoing Solar Cells section 201 case, which is comparable to the Section 232 case, the ITC will take 6 months to make its injury determination, 2 months to make a remedy determination.  The ITC will hold two hearings, send out numerous questionnaires and large briefs will be filed.  Not in the Section 232 case, which is only 2 months long.

Although the Section 232 Steel report is due at the end of June, President Trump is stating that the Aluminum Section 232 Steel report should come out at the end of June when the hearing is on June 22nd and comments are not due to June 30.  This is truly a rush to judgement without due regard to the impact on downstream users.

As indicated below, on trade President Trump and President Ronald Reagan are diametric opposites, and Reagan understood that protecting one industry hurts other industries.

Meanwhile, new antidumping and countervailing duty cases have been filed against Fine Denier Polyester Staple Fiber and Citric Acid and ITC and Commerce deadlines are very, very strict.  Also Commerce has ruled Aluminum Pallets are in the Aluminum Extrusions case.

The Section 201 case against imports of solar cells from every country continues.  Border Adjustment taxes are still an issue and NAFTA negotiations will start up, but Trump has told Lighthizer to do no harm to agriculture, which is going to be difficult to pull off.

Again, maybe this is why Trade Adjustment Assistance to Companies is so important.

If anyone has any questions or wants additional information, please feel free to contact me at my e-mail address bill@harrisbricken.com.

Best regards,

Bill Perry

TRUMP’S TRADE WAR

Trump’s trade war continues as downstream steel user industries finally wake up to the damage they could face.  In the Section 232 case, on May 31st, numerous downstream industries from automobiles, equipment manufacturers, forging industry, industrial fasteners, motor and equipment manufacturers, electrical machinery manufacturers, transformers, heavy trucks, and other companies that use steel products filed short public comments stating cutting off their steel raw materials would devastate their companies.

But Trump himself cannot wait to impose tariffs.  On June 8, 2017, Politico reported that:

President Donald Trump appears to be champing at the bit to impose steel import restrictions under a national security probe being conducted by the Commerce Department. In a speech Wednesday in Cincinnati, Trump indicated major action was coming quickly and that it could affect countries besides China, which is often blamed for creating a global steel glut.

“Wait until you see what I’m going to do for steel and for your steel companies,” Trump said. “We’re going to stop the dumping, and stop all of these wonderful other countries from coming in and killing our companies and our workers. You’ll be seeing that very soon. The steel folks are going to be very happy.”

But big US steel consumers, like machinery, auto, energy, including oil and natural gas, are not going to be happy and are extremely worried that Trump’s trade action will damage their US industries and cause companies to close costing millions of jobs.  In Trump’s desire to move quickly to protect the steel industry, he could well damage many other US industries in the process.  This has happened before and likely will happen again.

As the National Foreign Trade Council, which represents more than 200 companies, stated in its public 232 comments filed at the Commerce Department on May 31, 2017:

In considering whether to impose restrictions on steel imports for national security reasons, it is important to keep in mind two important facts about those industries that rely on steel as a key input to their production. First, steel-consuming companies producing goods in the U.S. account for a vastly greater share of total manufacturing output and employment than does the domestic steel industry itself. The U.S.- based auto and auto parts industry employs over 800,000 production workers, more than four times as many as are employed by U.S. steel producers. The construction industry, which accounts for a majority of all steel consumption, employs nearly 8 million production workers. Many other steel-consuming sectors have larger employment than the steel sector.

Secondly, many steel-consuming companies are also major suppliers for our nation’s defense-related needs, building the ships, aircraft, machinery, high technology weapons and other goods that a modern military demands. Therefore, these downstream industries are critical to the U.S. industrial capacity and the nation’s security is weakened if the production capacity of these industries is curtailed.  Because of these two factors – employment effects and national security needs – it is of utmost importance to weigh carefully the potential effects of higher steel tariffs or restrictive quotas on these steel-consuming sectors.

On June 14th Politico reported that Congress is now getting concerned about the impact of the Section 232 case and that Trump administration officials will hold staff-level briefings with the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committees on June 16th to lay out the context and process for an investigation into the national security threats of steel imports

Apparently, Commerce Department officials are still debating what products should be covered and from where.  One question is whether semi- finished steel, imported and fabricated into various products, should be exempt.

The big question still at issue — what is the magnitude of the national security concern? Disagreement among top White House officials could be partly to blame for slowing the report. Some in the Trump administration see the threat extending all the way to steel used in infrastructure projects while others see it limited strictly to steel used in the defense-industrial base.

Another question is whether to give a pass to steel imports from Canada and Mexico under certain circumstances.  There’s also statutory authority for treating Canada as a defense partner, which could eliminate any consideration of imports from north of the border as a threat to national security.

Politico reports that the Commerce Department is expected to present three options to the President:

  • A 25 percent tariff that would apply to any steel imports that fall in the scope of the investigation. The tariff would also apply to all existing anti-dumping and countervailing duty orders.
  • A tariff-rate quota that would hit imports with a tariff once they exceed a certain volume. There is also discussion of an alternative that would apply tariffs if imports dip below a certain price, but there is concern that Commerce or USTR may not have the resources to set up a sophisticated system to monitor prices across a range of steel
  • A straight quota that would apply strict limits on imports of certain types of steel products from certain countries.

Politico also indicated another concern whether Commerce and USTR have the manpower to effectively implement and administer any of these trade actions? Sources said that concern is one element driving the debate over what specific trade action to take.

Chairman Kevin Brady of House Ways and Means also expressed his concern with the Section 232 case at The Wall Street Journal’s annual CFO conference, stating:

“Any administration has to be careful in its assessment and its implementation of those provisions.  Done incorrectly, it can send a very protectionist signal to other countries to do the same. It is a tool that has to be wielded very carefully.”

Chairman Brady should be concerned because of the strong possibility of retaliation.  As the US Wheat Associates stated in their May 31st comments to the Commerce Department:

Wheat is often viewed as an import sensitive industry in many countries that are export destinations for U.S. farmers. Before taking action under Section 232, the Department of Commerce should consider the fallout if other countries follow suit and impose restrictions on U.S. wheat or other products as a result of their own national security concerns, whether real or imagined.

U.S. Wheat Associates is extremely concerned about the potential ramifications of import protections based on national security arguments. Under the 1994 General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) Article XXI, national security can be a legitimate reason to restrict trade, but this has been rarely cited for very good reason: Article XXI is the Pandora’s Box of the GATT. If it is opened for our import sensitive industries, the results could be devastating.

Outside of a few obvious, generally uncontested areas, such as trade in weapons and nuclear material, most trade in goods are not considered national security issues because the implications are enormous. Steel and aluminum are undoubtedly import sensitive products. But the Department of Commerce should think very carefully about the potential consequences of declaring steel and aluminum imports to be national security concerns.

The U.S. wheat industry is highly dependent on exports, with roughly half of U.S. wheat production exported each year on average. .  . However, anytime a trade restriction is put in place, there is the potential for it to be applied to U.S. exports in response, particularly if trade restrictions are imposed outside the World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute settlement system. . . .

U.S. farmers also rely on international commitments made by countries in the WTO and other trade agreements to keep markets open. However, not every country abides by those rules, and a radical shift by the United States in its respect for trade commitments could give effective ammunition to those who seek to stop or slow food imports under the guise of national security. . . .

As indicated further below, when it comes to trade, people need to understand that Donald Trump and Ronald Regan are 180 degrees, diametrically opposite.  Reagan was a true free trade, but President Trump is a protectionist.  Although his protectionist rhetoric is probably a very good reason for his election victory, especially as it relates to trade agreements, such as TPP and NAFTA, the problem with protectionism is the collateral damage to other US industries.  When one wants to protect raw material industries very quickly with not enough time to consider the full impact of a protectionist action, the collateral damage on other US industries can truly be devastating.  The protectionist cure can be much worse than the trade disease.  Not only in Steel, but also aluminum.

TRUMP’S TRADE WAR ON DOWNSTREAM INDUSTRIES—SECTION 232 STEEL CASE

The real impact of the Trump Steel War on downstream industries is illustrated in spades by the public comments in the Section 232 Steel case by steel consuming industries.  As stated in the last blog post, in response to pressure from President Trump, Commerce Secretary Ross has self-initiated National Security cases under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, 19 U.S.C. 1862, against imports of steel and aluminum, which go directly into downstream US production.  The danger of these cases is that there is no check on Presidential power if the Commerce Department finds that steel or aluminum “is being imported into the United States in such quantities or under such circumstances as to threaten to impair the national security, the Secretary shall so advise the President”.  The Secretary shall also advise the President on potential remedies.

If the Secretary reports affirmatively, the President has 90 days to determine whether it concurs with the Secretary’s determination and “determine the nature and duration of the action that, in the judgment of the President, must be taken to adjust the imports of the article and its derivatives so that such imports will not threaten to impair the national security.”

Once the President makes his affirmative determination, he will report his decision to Congress, but it is questionable whether Congress can disapprove the decision.   The statute also does not provide for any appeal to the Court of International Trade.  Commerce also is very protectionist and in antidumping and countervailing duty cases.  The only check is the injury determination by the independent US International Trade Commission.  There is no such determination under Section 232.

STEEL

On April 20, 2017, President Trump and the Commerce Department in the attached press announcement and fact sheet along with a Federal Register notice, Presidential Memorandum Prioritizes Commerce Steel Investigation _ Department of Commerce Section 232 Investigation on the Effect of Imports of Steel on U.S COMMERCE FED REG SECTION 232 NOTICE, announced the self-initiation of a Section 232 National Security case against imports of steel from every country.  See video of Trump signing the Executive Order with Secretary Ross and Steel Producers at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EiVfNOl-_Ho.

Commerce held a hearing on May 24th in this case.  The video of the hearing can be found at https://www.commerce.gov/file/public-hearing-section-232-investigation-steel-imports-national-security.

Although Section 232 investigations usually take 6 months, at the hearing, Ross stated that a written report would go to the President by the end of June in less than two months.  At the start of the hearing, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said something has to be done to help the Steel producers.  In the past Secretary Ross has stated that the Section 232 case is meant to fill the gaps created by the patchwork of antidumping and countervailing duties on foreign steel, which he said have provided only limited relief to the U.S. industry.

On May 31, 2017, public comments were filed at the Commerce Department on the Section 232 Steel case.  These are some of the comments by the Downstream Steel Users.

AMERICAN AUTOMOTIVE POLICY COUNCIL (AAPC)

The AAPC represents the common public policy interests of its member companies – FCA US, Ford Motor Company and General Motors Company, and states the following in its May 31st comments:

Although sympathetic to the challenges the steel industry faces, we are concerned that if, as a result of this Section 232 investigation, the President were to increase tariffs on foreign steel or impose other import restrictions, the auto industry and the U.S. workers that the industry employs would be adversely affected and that this unintended negative impact would exceed the benefit provided to the steel industry from this Executive action.

Steel is a critical input into the manufacture of automotive products. The price of steel in the United States is already significantly higher than in the markets where our competitors build the majority of their cars and trucks.  This puts U.S. automakers at a competitive disadvantage.

Inevitably, the imposition of across the board higher tariffs or other restrictions on imports of steel into the United States would only widen the existing price gap by increasing the price of U.S. steel and thus the cost of U.S.-built vehicles. Additionally, outside of the United States, the price of steel will fall further, giving foreign automakers an additional cost advantage over the U.S. auto industry.

As a result of such a Section 232 remedy, sales of domestically-built cars and trucks would fall, auto exports would shrink, and American auto sector jobs would be lost. In the end, this contraction could actually reduce the amount of U.S. steel consumed by U.S. automakers, jeopardizing the very industry the remedy was intended to assist. . . .

The U.S. automotive industry makes significant contributions to the U.S. economy, with FCA US, Ford Motor Company and General Motors Company representing the majority of the following 2016 economic contributions.

  • Directly employing/supporting more than 7.3 million American jobs- including manufacturers of auto parts, steel, glass, plastics, rubber and semi-conductors;
  • Exporting $137 billion in vehicles and parts, more than any other U.S. industry sector;
  • Manufacturing 12.2 million cars & trucks;
  • Representing 8% of the manufacturing sector’s contribution to GDP on a value added basis;
  • Investing $8 billion in U.S. plants/equipment, and nearly $20 billion in R&D; and
  • Selling a record 17.5 million cars and light

 The AAPC concludes:

While we strongly support the Administration’s focus on ensuring that our trading partners live up to their commitments and abide by their trade-related obligations, actions taken as a result of this Section 232 investigation to restrict imports of steel, in order to support the U.S. steel industry, could have unintended negative consequences for the domestic automotive industry and the millions of American workers it directly and indirectly employs.

Any such restrictions that this Administration might implement would lead to an increase in the price of U.S. steel and depress the price of steel in foreign markets. This would lead to lower sales of domestically-built cars and trucks in the highly competitive U.S. auto market, a decrease in U.S. auto exports, and a loss of the jobs that those economic activities support. In the end, that would be a net-negative for the U.S. economy, and potentially the U.S. steel industry – the very sector such restrictions were designed to assist.

ASSOCIATION OF EQUIPMENT MANUFACTURERS (“AEM”)

AEM Represents 950 member companies that manufacture equipment and provide services for the construction, agriculture, utilities and mining sectors worldwide.  These manufacturers represent 1.3 million Americans, contribute $159 billion to the U.S. economy and raise over $25 billion in federal and state taxes each year.  As AEM states in its comments:

Manufacturing equipment in America frequently requires the sourcing of steel products  from around the world. While manufacturers in the United States often procure steel from domestic suppliers, they at times must source steel from international producers because the steel’s formula matches a specific spec required to ensure a piece of equipment’s proper function and performance that is not otherwise available in the United States. Inhibiting access to foreign steel will force manufacturers to procure steel from a domestic supplier that may not match required specifications, thus degrading the quality and performance of the equipment and risking operational safety concerns.  In cases where a particular type of steel is available from domestic suppliers, a sudden surge in demand will likely lead to extended procurement timeframes and delays in the manufacturing process.

Restricting the import of foreign steel will also ultimately have a very negative impact on the manufacturing competitiveness of the United States as domestic steel prices rise, and global steel prices fall when steel originally destined for the US enters global markets. With nearly 30 percent of equipment manufactured in the U.S. designated for export, U.S. manufactured exports will become uncompetitive in many global markets if manufacturers are forced to pay higher prices for necessary steel inputs. In addition, restricting raw material imports hurts American jobs by driving up the costs of value-added manufacturing in the U.S.  Furthermore, imported manufactured equipment will become much more competitive in the U.S. market as foreign manufacturers are able to produce and sell equipment at a much lower price by leveraging global steel markets.

CATO INSTITUTE—FORMER ITC COMMISSIONER DAN PEARSON

Former ITC Commissioner Dan Pearson presently at the Cato Institute made the following points:

First, the 232 investigation must be understood in the context of the existing U.S. steel marketplace. Roughly 200 antidumping or countervailing duty measures already are in place on steel products from a variety of countries. Steel currently is one of the most protected sectors in the U.S. economy.  . . .

Third, any further import restrictions would do far more harm to steel-using manufacturers than any benefit that could be provided to steel mills. That is simply due to the raw numbers. Steel mills employ just 140,000 workers.  Downstream manufacturers that use steel as an input employ 6.5 million, 46 times more. Steel mills account for a fairly small slice of the overall U.S. economy.  The $36 billion in economic value added by steel mills in 2015 equals only 0.2 percent of U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP). By contrast, the economic value added by firms that use steel as an input was $1.04 trillion – 29 times more – or 5.8 percent of GDP.

Any government action to drive up steel prices by restricting imports will hurt steel-consuming manufacturers by artificially increasing their steel costs and reducing their competitiveness relative to companies overseas. It’s clear that the broad public would be harmed by additional steel import restrictions. A decline in U.S. economic welfare is not something the administration ought to pursue. It’s very difficult to have a stronger national defense when the economy is getting weaker.

FORGING INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION

The Forging Industry Association (FIA) is the Association representing the US forging industry.  The Comments state:

In 2016, custom forgings accounted for nearly $10.5 billion of sales in North America. An additional $3-5 billion in catalog and captive sales would bring the industry total for 2016 to the $13.5 – 15.5 billion range. The North American forging industry is comprised of nearly 500 forging operations in 38 states, Canada and Mexico, with the largest US presence of forging operations located in Ohio (79), Pennsylvania  (63), Illinois (54), Michigan (54), California (38), Texas (41), New York (16), Indiana (18), Wisconsin (17), Kentucky (13), Massachusetts (10), and South Carolina (9). . . .These operations provide more than 36,000 well-paid jobs and benefits.

As noted above, the steel forging industry supplies many products essential to national security, including numerous tank and automotive forgings for combat vehicles, small caliber weapons forgings, ordnance forgings, and forgings used in building airplanes, helicopters, ships and submarines. . . .

US steel forgers rely almost exclusively on domestically-produced SBQ steel. SBQ is specialty steel long products made to customer specifications suited for forging into the final product. Because it is heavy, bulky and expensive to ship long distances, the forging industry depends upon a healthy, competitive domestic SBQ steel industry to provide necessary raw material at globally competitive prices for steel forging here in the U.S. The “globally competitive prices” are critically important – if the price for domestic SBQ steel is higher in the U.S. than anywhere else in the world due to tariffs or trade restrictions, then we begin to see less imports of raw material and more imports of downstream products.

The US steel forging industry relies heavily on 6 domestic SBQ steel producers with mills in multiple locations. SBQ steel imports accounted for 15% of the consumption in 2016, and domestic consumption was 4 million tons of SBQ steel, while SBQ imports totaled only 600,000 tons.  This import volume has remained relatively flat over the past few years. . . . Generally speaking, we do not believe the SBQ steel industry has been adversely affected by steel imports. The domestic SBQ steel market is currently running close to capacity, and producers recently announced substantial price increases.

While SBQ raw material import penetration has been relatively insignificant, the import of steel forgings has grown significantly and at an ever increasing rate, threatening the health and viability of the domestic steel forging industry.   . . .

In effect, when current trade laws are used to remedy injury in one subsector of the economy, such as steel, they often shift the injury to another tier within the manufacturing sector.

INDUSTRIAL FASTENER INSTITUTE (“IFI”)

The IFI represents approximately 85% of fastener production capacity in North America, and there are few, if any, products used in the pursuit of national security that do not contain fasteners.

In its comments, the IFI stated:

In 2015, the U.S. fastener industry accounted for $13.4 billion (of a $69.6 billion global market), and is projected to grow +2.6% per year to roughly $15 billion by 2020. In the U.S., the fastener industry employs approximately 42,000 people at about 850 different manufacturing facilities.  . . ..

The fastener industry is critical to all segments of our manufacturing industrial base, including the defense industry.  .

Fastener manufacturing is a major consumer of metals, including steel. Since fasteners can be made anywhere in the world, the U.S. industry is dependent on access to adequate supplies of globally priced raw materials such as steel to remain globally competitive. . .  .

However, even with a healthy domestic industry, history has shown that fastener manufacturers must sometimes import raw material because the particular types of steel needed are not available in the quantities, quality or form required. (Fasteners are made out of round form, not sheet, flat or bar products.) By some accounts, the U.S. steel industry is able to produce only about 70 percent of the total steel consumed in the U.S. . . .

No one disputes that unfair trade exists, and that trade remedy laws can be a useful tool to combat it when it occurs. However, while the trade remedy laws can provide some protection for domestic metals producers, they are a double-edged sword for downstream users such as fastener manufacturers, who may be negatively impacted by higher raw material costs and may not be able to fully utilize the trade remedy laws themselves. In particular, downstream users of products subject to trade remedies have no standing under U.S. law to participate in the process that may lead to the imposition of duties on those products.  In addition, these downstream users are likely to be smaller companies who do not have the financial resources to pursue trade cases, which can cost millions of dollars to fully prosecute.

The fastener industry has experienced this scenario many times, where efforts to protect a basic raw material segment of the economy create unintended consequences throughout the rest of the economy. The most recent example occurred in 2002, when President Bush, at the urging of the U.S. steel industry concerned about a surge of imports, imposed 30% tariffs on nearly all imported steel under a Global Safeguard action. The impact on steel consuming industries was immediate and devastating. The evidence of harm to the broad economy grew quickly, leading President Bush to terminate the Global Safeguard order after only eighteen months instead of the full three years, but by then 1.3 million manufacturing jobs in steel consuming and related industries had been lost.

The fastener industry not only understands the need to ensure that the U.S. has the necessary industrial capacity to provide for our national defense needs, we are a vital part of that very capacity. To be frank, steel is a commodity until somebody makes it into a part/end item. We are concerned that the proposed 232 investigation will not give proper consideration to the importance of downstream industries to that industrial capacity.

MOTOR & EQUIPMENT MANUFACTURERS ASSOCIATION (MEMA)

MEMA represents 1,000 vehicle suppliers that manufacture and remanufacture components and systems for use in passenger cars and heavy trucks providing original equipment (OE) to new vehicles as well as aftermarket parts to service, maintain and repair over 260 million vehicles on the road today. In its comments, the MEMA stated:

the total employment impact of the motor vehicle parts manufacturing industry is 4.26 million jobs. Nearly $435 billion in economic contribution to the U.S. GDP is generated by the motor vehicle parts manufacturers and its supported activity. In total, motor vehicle parts suppliers contribute more than 77 percent of the value in today’s vehicles. .

Free and fair trade is imperative for a strong domestic supplier industry. Disruption to supply chains or increases in production costs will not contribute to the national security of the United States.

Our industry is closely associated with the U.S. defense industry.  . . . Adjustments to steel imports that prevent our members from obtaining the type of steel they need in a timely manner or increases to production costs would jeopardize our ability to manufacture in the United States and to provide these critical products to the U.S. defense industry.

Adjustments to steel imports will adversely impact MEMA member companies by disrupting U.S. manufacturing operations and increasing costs. Suppliers expect adjustments to steel imports to cause job losses due to a decrease in production if steel is not available in a timely manner or the costs of production increase. Adjustments to steel imports would also be likely to decrease overall U.S. production because production of the downstream products using steel subject to such adjustments would move abroad.

Member companies would have to compete with those finished goods imports, which likely would take market share from MEMA member companies. Finally, other countries may retaliate against the U.S. for imposing such restrictions by imposing their own restrictions, which could detrimentally impact exports of MEMA member companies.

MEMA member companies need specialized steel that either is not available at all in the U.S. or is not available in sufficient quantities. Certain foreign steel producers worked closely with MEMA member companies to develop the specialized steel and this type of collaboration benefits the U.S. by improving products. Continued access to these types of steel are critical to our industry. Attached to these comments is a non-exhaustive list of steel products that must be excluded from any import adjustments (see Appendix I). Several of our member companies are submitting exclusion requests directly as well. . . .

Motor vehicle component and systems manufacturers are the largest employers of manufacturing jobs in the U.S. and many of these companies import steel of all types, including specialized steel products, to manufacture goods in the U.S. that are then sold to the U.S. defense industry, U.S. government and consumers. Disrupting American manufacturing operations or increasing costs through adjustments to steel imports would not benefit the national security of the United States. Such adjustments to steel imports would, in fact, detrimentally impact U.S. employment, compromising our economic and national security.

NATIONAL ELECTRICAL MANUFACTURERS ASSOCIATION (NEMA)

NEMA represents nearly 350 electrical and medical imaging manufacturers and stated in its comments:

Our combined industries account for more than 400,000 American jobs and more than 7,000 facilities across the U.S. Domestic production exceeds $117 billion per year and exports top $50 billion.

Many NEMA member companies import specific types of steel from abroad for their U.S. manufacturing operations. Accordingly, NEMA urges the Administration to refrain from recommending or pursuing measures to adjust imports of fairly-traded electrical steel.

Power and distribution transformers are essential components of the U.S. electrical grid. Grain oriented electrical steel (GOES) can be the most expensive material used in the manufacture of transformers as the steel core is a very large percentage of the overall cost of a transformer, more than 50% in some cases. GOES is also the most important material in terms of quality and performance of a transformer. . .  .

Some electrical steels are imported into the U.S. because they are not available from domestic or North American suppliers. Loss of access to these materials would cause grave harm to NEMA manufacturers, who would no longer be able to manufacture and supply DOE-compliant products, and their customers – which include U.S. electric utilities as well as tens of thousands of industrial, commercial, and defense/national security facilities – but would have no effect on domestic or North American steel manufacturers, since they do not manufacture/produce or offer for sale those materials today.

The significant anti-dumping and countervailing duties in place have effectively eliminated supply from the seven largest NOES-producing countries. There is only one North American producer of NOES, who is effectively petitioning the government to become a protected monopoly.

If access to NOES were to be restricted further based on this Section 232 investigation, U.S. production of finished goods would face even greater pressure to move outside the United States.

U.S. motor manufacturers should not be forced by government policy to purchase from only a single U.S. monopoly supplier.

U.S. electrical manufacturers compete in a global market. Measures to restrict or block access by U.S. finished-product manufacturing operations to fairly-traded essential materials will harm domestic manufacturing and high-paying manufacturing jobs, and national and economic security. It would be patently unacceptable and un-American for the U.S. government to prevent U.S. manufacturers to mitigate supply chain risks through the use of a diversity of suppliers of fairly-traded materials.

Similarly, suggestions that the federal government should place restrictions, on national security grounds, on the importation of fairly-traded components and finished goods could not be more misguided. If products are entering the U.S. at less than fair value and causing injury to a domestic industry producing like products, then U.S. trade remedy laws are in place to address such situations. Steel manufacturers/producers do not have standing to call for restrictions on fairly-traded imports of products that they do not manufacture; therefore motors, transformers and steel cores (regardless of size) should not be part of this Section 232 discussion.

Many commentators, including US Auto Parts companies, requested exclusion of their specific type of imported steel because the US steel producers could not produce the specific type of steel used to make the downstream products.

BORG WARNER

In its comments, Borg Warner, a large US auto parts company, first listed 18 different specific types of steel and parts produced from that steel and went on to state:

The list above is crucial to our U.S-manufactured products that require types of specialty steel that are not available domestically. The products we make with these specialty materials provide key essential vehicle propulsion technologies for improving fuel-efficiency, emissions, and performance. These technologies are critical in helping automakers meet federal regulations for Corporate Average Fuel (CAFE) standards and achieving better overall environmental conditions.

These technologies take many years to refine and often require specialized materials in its engineering and production. We have worked closely with these specialty steel suppliers to develop our products to ensure quality and affordability for our customers and consumers. Any major changes to our supply chain could hurt our engineering and manufacturing processes, delay production, and or jeopardize our ability to meet the vehicle production demands of the industry. If these steel exclusions are not granted, the cost of these types of products would increase and ultimately be passed onto the consumers in the overall price of the vehicle. Most importantly, a major shift in steel supply could hurt U.S. vehicle sales and therefore negatively impact U.S. automotive manufacturing jobs.

BSH HOME APPLIANCE

In its comments, BSH states that it manufactures appliances sold under the Bosch, Thermador and Gaggenau names at factories in North Carolina and Tennessee, with warehouses, sales offices and show rooms throughout the United States.  BSH further states in its comments:

If the Department decides that some steel is being imported into the United States in such quantities or under such circumstances as to threaten or impair the national security, BSH requests that steel used for home appliances—light gauge sheet metal, galvanized pre-painted steel, and light gauge stainless steel—be exempt from that determination. . . .

Steel is one of the main materials used by home appliance manufacturers in the construction of their products. In particular, home appliance manufacturers typically use light gauge sheet metal, galvanized pre-painted steel, and light gauge stainless steel in the construction of their products. These materials are critical to the design, function, and durability of home appliances and, should the Department decide to recommend action, we ask that the steel used for home appliances be exempt.

First, we are concerned that any action to ban or limit the quantity of steel imported into the United States will overly burden U.S. steel capacity. U.S. steel capacity is insufficient to meet the demands of industry, including the home appliance industry. Were steel to become more difficult to source, it would hamper the industry’s ability to deliver products to consumers. In addition, some manufactures use specialty steel that is simply not available in the U.S. and must be sourced internationally.

Second, foreign competition in the steel industry improves the welfare of the home appliance industry, which is a low margin business. Competition between U.S. steel producers and international steel producers results in lower steel prices. Without this competitive pricing, it is likely that the home appliance industry could become less competitive and/or, in some cases, would need to pass price increases onto consumers.

Moreover, an action to impose a ban or limit on the quantity of steel imported into the United States or a tariff on steel imports is a disincentive to manufacture home appliances in the United States. It is likely that, in response to such actions, companies producing products domestically would be at a disadvantage compared to products produced internationally. Thus, limits on imported steel and/or tariffs on imported steel could result in companies deciding to produce home appliances outside of the United States in an effort to avoid higher steel prices or the unavailability of domestic steel. . . .

The Department and the President must ensure that in assisting one industry, they do not negatively impact others.

BUSINESS AND INSTITUTIONAL FURNITURE MANUFACTURERS ASSOCIATION (“BIFMA”)

BIFMA is the trade association for business and institutional furniture producers and is the Association for the commercial furniture industry.  BIFMA stated in its May 31st comments:

It is difficult to imagine how it is in our national security or national economic interests to impose tariffs or quotas that risk thousands of jobs in steel-consuming industries. Disregarding or discounting the economic impact of adjustments on consuming industries could have serious and unintended consequences. We urge the Department to refrain from, or carefully limit, any import adjustment recommendations.

Any adjustment to steel imports is likely to increase steel prices domestically. Adjustments that restrict supply and increase costs domestically will cause significant, negative financial consequences for companies. A sudden increase in material costs would be extremely detrimental for our members and the customers that they supply . . . . We urge the Department to take into consideration the serious ramifications to steel- consuming manufacturers while considering any recommendation it may make to the President.

STEEL BUILDING AND CONSTRUCTION COMPANIES

In its May 31st comments, more than ten steel building and construction companies stated:

Our companies produce building materials, such as prefabricated building sections, roofs, etc. from galvalume and galvanized steel coils.  Our companies are very concerned about the threat to our company’s future if the imports of flat rolled galvalume steel we rely on are restricted by additional tariffs or quotas. Only a few American mills produce galvalume at all; those mills are not interested in selling this at a competitive price to most users. There also are not enough mills producing this product to satisfy demand. Only certain selected customers are able get pricing at competitive levels. Without access to imported galvalume, our ability to compete will be reduced or eliminated.

American national security is not threatened by imports of galvalume. Not only are coated products not used in defense applications; most American mils are profitable, to the extent that they are expanding their coated steel operations, not reducing them.  . .

We urge you to not restrict the steel imports that are vital to our survival.

TRANSFORMER MANUFACTURERS

Several transformer manufacturers stated in their comments:

The proposal made in oral comments that the Department initiate remedies on the import of electrical grade steel, including GOES, deeply troubles the Transformer Manufacturers. This proposal presumes that the importation of GOES or cut steel for use in power transformers is a threat the national security. We propose that protecting the interests of the domestic transformer manufacturers and their employees is more vital to national security than the risk associated with importing GOES, which only accounts for a portion of the total market. One thing is certain of the proposal if adopted as recommended, it will severely damage the domestic transformer marketplace, the underlying companies and their United States employees. . . .

Simply put, at present there is no other domestic alternative to AK Steel as a source of GOES. Granting its requested relief will, in effect, further entrench a domestic de facto monopoly for GOES. While each of the below entities wants to continue to work with AK Steel and maintain positive commercial relationships, the potential economic impact of an unrestricted sole-source domestic provider could be devastating on the domestic transformer manufacturing industry.

TRUCK AND ENGINE MANUFACTURERS ASSOCIATION

EMA represents the world’s leading manufacturers of heavy- duty commercial vehicles, as well as the world’s leading manufacturers of the internal combustion engines that power the vehicles and equipment used in virtually all applications other than passenger cars and aircraft.  In its comments EMA stated:

members maintain significant manufacturing operations in the United States that employ tens of thousands of workers engaged in the manufacture of, among other things: trucks, buses, heavy-duty pickups and vans, construction and agricultural equipment, mining equipment, law and garden equipment, along with the wide array of internal combustion engines that power those myriad applications, as well as the engines that power locomotives and marine vessels. All of those very significant and vital manufacturing operations – operations that quite literally produce the machinery that powers and moves our domestic economy – use significant amounts of steel. As a result, EMA and its members have a significant stake in the DOC’s pending investigation.  . . .

While all of those concerns are certainly genuine and significant, there is also a significant national interest in ensuring that domestic manufacturers are not forced to purchase steel at prices that are materially higher than those that prevail in foreign manufacturing markets.

Steel is a key commodity in the manufacture of the goods produced by EMA’s members. In addition, those steel-derived goods are sold into world-wide markets, and so necessarily compete with goods manufactured in multiple foreign locations. To the extent that U.S.-based manufacturers are compelled to pay more for necessary steel inputs than their foreign competitors, they will be at a significant and unfair disadvantage from the outset.

Restrictions on the imports of steel could result in increases in the price of steel based on reduced supplies in the U.S. marketplace. That cost increase, as noted above, could cause significant competitive disadvantages for U.S.-based manufacturers that utilize steel as a key commodity in their manufacturing operations. It also could force manufacturers to pass on higher prices for their finished goods to U.S. consumers, thereby compounding the negative impacts of the increased price of steel in the U.S. Accordingly, in addition to the important concerns that are motivating the DOC’s investigation, the DOC should take into account, and give high priority to, the potential impacts on the competitiveness of U.S.-based manufacturers. A proper assessment of those impacts should be a key component of any recommendation that the DOC submits to the President on this matter.

Previous experience with additional tariffs and related restrictions on steel imports is highly instructive. In 2002, the U.S. government imposed tariffs on a broad range of steel imports over a 3-year period. In subsequent studies of the economic impact of those tariffs, it was found that the tariffs had resulted in a number of unintended adverse consequences, including the following: (i) 200,000 Americans lost their jobs due to higher steel prices; (ii) one-quarter of those job losses occurred in the machinery and equipment, and transportation equipment sectors; (iii) every U.S. State experienced employment losses from higher steel costs; and (iv) steel tariffs caused shortages and higher steel prices that put U.S. manufacturers of steel-containing products at a disadvantage relative to their foreign competitors. The same types of unintended adverse consequences could result in this case, depending on the types of “adjustments” to steel imports that the DOC may choose to recommend as an outcome of the pending study. . . .

Like the chorus in a Greek tragedy, US manufacturers that rely on steel as a key raw material input are crying their warning about imposing restrictions on steel imports.  Many more jobs on a factor of 10 could be lost by the restraints than are saved by the restraints.  The real question is whether Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and President Trump are listening.

ALUMINUM

On April 27, 2017, President Trump and the US Commerce Department self-initiated a Section 232 National Security case against imports of aluminum from all countries.  See the attached documents related to the Case Section 232 Investigation on the Effect of Imports of Aluminum on US National S ALUMINUM FED REG PUB Aluminum Presidential Memo Summary.  The hearing will be June 22, 2017 at the Commerce Department.

Trump has indicated that he is expecting the Aluminum report by the end of June.  But the hearing will be held on June 22nd with written comments due by June 29th.  That certainly shows a rush to protectionist judgment when aluminum users will have the same concerns as steel users.

DONALD TRUMP AND RONALD REAGAN—DIAMETRICALLY OPPOSITE IN ONE IMPORTANT AREA—TRADE

It is important to note that there is one area in which President Ronald Reagan and President Donald Trump are diametrically, 180 degrees opposite and that is trade.  None of the news shows that are Pro-Trump and Pro-Republican highlight the trade views of the Gipper, but he was certainly no Donald Trump and Donald Trump is no Ronald Reagan when it comes to trade.

At a time like this, it is important to review President Reagan’s June 28, 1986 speech on international trade. President Reagan knew something that President Trump does not work.  Protectionism destroys jobs.  As Reagan stated:

Now, I know that if I were to ask most of you how you like to spend your Saturdays in the summertime, sitting down for a nice, long discussion of international trade wouldn’t be at the top of the list. But believe me, none of us can or should be bored with this issue. Our nation’s economic health, your well-being and that of your family’s really is at stake.

That’s because international trade is one of those issues that politicians find an unending source of temptation. Like a 5-cent cigar or a chicken in every pot, demanding high tariffs or import restrictions is a familiar bit of flimflammery in American politics. But cliches and demagoguery aside, the truth is these trade restrictions badly hurt economic growth.

You see, trade barriers and protectionism only put off the inevitable. Sooner or later, economic reality intrudes, and industries protected by the Government face a new and unexpected form of competition. It may be a better product, a more efficient manufacturing technique, or a new foreign or domestic competitor.

By this time, of course, the protected industry is so listless and its competitive instincts so atrophied that it can’t stand up to the competition. And that, my friends, is when the factories shut down and the unemployment lines start. We had an excellent example of this in our own history during the Great Depression. Most of you are too young to remember this, but not long after the stock market crash of 1929, the Congress passed something called the Smoot-Hawley tariff. Many economists believe it was one of the worst blows ever to our economy. By crippling free and fair trade with other nations, it internationalized the Depression. It also helped shut off America’s export market, eliminating many jobs here at home and driving the Depression even deeper. . . .

Sometimes foreign governments adopt unfair tariffs or quotas and subsidize their own industries or take other actions that give firms an unfair competitive edge over our own businesses. On those occasions, it’s been very important for the United States to respond effectively, and our administration hasn’t hesitated to act quickly and decisively.

And in September, with more GATT talks coining up once again, it’s going to be very important for the United States to make clear our commitment that unfair foreign competition cannot be allowed to put American workers in businesses at an unfair disadvantage. But I think you all know the inherent danger here. A foreign government raises an unfair barrier; the United States Government is forced to respond. Then the foreign government retaliates; then we respond, and so on. The pattern is exactly the one you see in those pie fights in the  old Hollywood comedies: Everything and everybody just gets messier and messier. The difference here is that it’s not funny. It’s tragic. Protectionism becomes destructionism; it costs jobs.

Now I know that others, including USTR Lighthizer himself, argue that Reagan was not really a free trader.  But the trade actions he took, including his appointment of very free traders as ITC Commissioners, show that Reagan deeply understood the dangers of protectionism.  He lived through the Great Depression and the effects of the 1930 Smoot Hawley Tariff Act.  Donald Trump did not live during that time period and the comments of the US Steel users above indicate that President Trump does not understand the dangers of protectionism.

SOLAR 201 ESCAPE CLAUSE CASE

On May 17, 2017, Suniva filed a Section 201 Escape Clause against all Solar Cell imports from all countries at the US International Trade Commission (“ITC”).  On May 23, 2017, in the attached Federal Register notice, ITC iNITIATION NOTICE SOLAR CELLS, the ITC decided to go ahead and institute the case.  If the ITC reaches an affirmative determination, within 60 days the President must decide whether or not to impose import relief, which can be in the form of increased tariffs, quotas or an orderly marketing agreements.

At the ITC, Section 201 cases are a two stage process.  The ITC must first determine whether “crystalline silicon photovoltaic (“CSPV”) cells (whether or not partially or fully assembled into other products) are being imported into the United States in such increased quantities as to be a substantial cause of serious injury, or the threat thereof, to the domestic industry producing an article like or directly competitive with the imported articles.”  The ITC has determined that the investigation is “extraordinarily complicated” and will make its injury determination within 128 days after the petition was filed, or by September 22, 2017. The Commission will submit to the President the report required under section 202(f) of the Act (19 U.S.C. § 2252(f)(1)) within 180 days after the date on which the petition was filed, or by November 13, 2017.

Notices of appearance at the ITC are due on June 22nd at the ITC.  During the injury phase of the investigation, the ITC will hold an injury hearing on August 15, 2017.  Prehearing briefs are due at the ITC on August 8, 2017.  Posthearing briefs will be due at the ITC on August 22nd.

If the ITC reaches an affirmative determination, it will go into a remedy phase and the hearing in that phase will be on October 3, 2017.

COMMERCE AND ITC DEADLINES ARE VERY VERY STRICT

In the ongoing Tool Chests from China antidumping case, Commerce just bounced nine Separate Rates Applications from Chinese companies filed by a US law firm on the due date because of computer problems at Commerce and the law firm.  Most documents are now filed electronically at both the Commerce Department and the International Trade Commission in trade cases.  Computer problems and other filing issues are why we are so paranoid about Commerce and ITC deadlines and try to file documents, if possible, before the deadline date.

Computer systems including the Commerce and ITC computer systems, can have problems and one can miss the deadline.  If deadlines are missed, truly there is hell to pay.

ALUMINUM PALLETS ARE WITHIN THE SCOPE OF THE ALUMINUM EXTRUSIONS CASE

In the attached memorandum, PALLETS IN ALUMINUM EXTRUSIONS CASE, to prevent circumvention, the Commerce Department has determined to include aluminum pallets in the Aluminum Extrusions case.  In one situation, one Chinese producer/exporter exported 1000s of aluminum pallets into the US in an attempt to evade the antidumping (“AD”) and countervailing duty (“CVD”) orders on Aluminum Extrusions.

NEW TRADE CASES

ANTIDUMPING AND COUNTERVAILING DUTY CASES

FINE DENIER POLYESTER STAPLE FIBER

On May 31, 2017, DAK Americas LLC, Nan Ya Plastics Corporation, America, and Auriga Polymers Inc. filed an AD and CVD petition against imports of Fine Denier Polyester Staple Fiber from China, India, Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam.  The preliminary determination in the CVD case is due October 28th and the AD Preliminary Determination is due December 27, 2017.

CITRIC ACID AND CITRATE SALTS FROM BELGIUM, COLOMBIA AND THAILAND

On June 2, 2017, Archer Daniels Midland Company, Cargill, Incorporated, and Tate & Lyle Ingredients America LLC filed AD and CVD petitions against imports of Citric Acid and Certain Citrate Salts (“Citric Acid”) from Belgium, Colombia, and Thailand.

AD duties are imposed on subject imports that are found to be sold in the United States at less than “normal value.” CVD duties are imposed on imports that benefit from unfair government subsidies. For AD/CVD duties to be imposed, the U.S. government must determine not only that dumping or subsidization is occurring, but also that the subject imports are causing “material injury” or “threat of material injury” to the domestic industry.

This is the second AD/CVD case filed against Citric Acid. AD/CVD orders were previously imposed on citric acid from Canada and China in 2009.  The cases are targeting Chinese subsidiary companies in Thailand and other countries.

Alleged AD Rates

Belgium: 56.02 – 118.44%

Colombia: 41.18 – 49.46%

Thailand: 4.6 – 67.1%

Petitioner also identified various Thai government subsidy programs under the Thai Investment Promotion Act, along with other export-import loans, grants and export promotion measures.

Estimated Schedule of AD/CVD Investigations

June 2, 2017 – Petition filed

June 22, 2017 – DOC initiates investigations

June 23, 2017 – ITC staff conference

July 17, 2017 – ITC Preliminary Determination

October 30, 2017 – DOC CVD Preliminary Determination (assuming extended deadline)

December 29, 2017 – DOC AD Preliminary Determination (assuming extended deadline)

May 13, 2018 – DOC AD/CVD final determinations (assuming AD, CVD aligned and extended)

June 27, 2018 – ITC Final Determination (extended)

July 4, 2018 – DOC AD/CVD orders issued (extended).

OTHER TRADE CASES

SECTION 201 ESCAPE CLAUSE CASE AGAINST RESIDENTIAL WASHERS

On May 31, 2017, Whirlpool Corp. filed another Section 201 Escape Clause case against imports of Large Residential Washers.  The petition indicates that this is an attempt by Whirlpool to go after the Korean producers, including Samsung.  Whirlpool tried AD and CVD cases against Korea, but that failed because the Korean producers moved to another country.  Now like the Solar Cells 201 case, the US producer is trying to close the holes in the trade protection.

But do note another point, what is the major raw material input for residential washing machines—Steel. When US steel prices are many times higher than the world market price, that puts US steel users at a major competitive disadvantage.

USTR ROBERT LIGHTHIZER CONFIRMED—NAFTA FIGHT

Countries are still gearing up for NAFTA negotiations.  President Trump has told USTR Lighthizer not to do any damage and add to the bottom line.

Attached is an article with my quotes about the Mexico/Sugar suspension agreement to settle the dumping case against Mexico, Wilbur Ross likely will impose Mexico sugar deal over industry objections.  The Suspension Agreement will be finalized on June 30th with some possible tweaks to make the US industry feel better.  In fact, on June 16, 2017, Politico reported that the US sugar industry has given its blessing to the US-Mexico sugar deal making Commerce Secretary Ross’s day.  As Secretary Ross stated:

“I am glad all parties have agreed that the new sugar agreement is fair and addresses the shortcomings of the original deal.  I look forward to seeing the public comments on this deal, but am hopeful that we can successfully implement this new agreement with the support and cooperation of all stakeholders.”

The Sugar deal shows that Wilbur Ross wants to clear up trade issues before the NAFTA negotiations begin in earnest so we can expect a similar deal in the Lumber case.

On June 14, 2017, Robert Samuelson, a well-known economist, in an article in the Washington Post entitled “Trump is Deluded About NAFTA” stated:

The Trump administration is determined to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) — which created a single market from Mexico’s southern border to the Yukon — but the main political appeal of this policy rests on a popular myth: that “fair” trade requires the United States to have a surplus or balanced trade with both Mexico and Canada.

We are supposed to feel especially aggrieved that Mexico regularly has a sizable surplus with us, $63.2 billion in goods in 2016, according to Commerce Department figures. This shows, as the president repeatedly has said, that U.S. trade officials negotiated a bad deal for American firms and workers. Trump has promised to do much better.  That will be hard. . . .

In addition, the trade imbalances within NAFTA aren’t as large as they seem. It’s true — as noted — that the United States had a $63.2 billion deficit in goods trade (cars, computers, plastics) with Mexico. But the U.S. surplus on services (travel, transportation, consulting) was $7.6 billion, reducing the overall deficit with Mexico to $55.6 billion. On the same basis, covering goods and services, the United States had a trade surplus of $12.5 billion with Canada in 2016.

So: The total trade deficit with Canada and Mexico was $43.1 billion ($55.6 billion minus $12.5 billion). All trade — exports and imports — between the United States and Canada and Mexico totaled $1.207 trillion in 2016. Our net deficit equaled 3.5 percent of total trade and about two-tenths of 1 percent of U.S. GDP. This hardly seems crushing.

Against that backdrop, the notion that either Canada or Mexico is going to offer the United States vast new markets in their countries — without corresponding U.S. concessions — seems wishful thinking. “The administration appears to perceive Mexico and perhaps Canada as surplus countries,” writes [Fred} Bergsten, “whereas they (more accurately) see themselves as deficit countries,” seeking to increase exports or dampen imports. This is Trump’s delusion.

BORDER ADJUSTMENT TAXES

Although the Trump Administration says that the Border Adjustment tax (“BAT”) is dead, it continues to raise its head.  On June 7th Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch stated at a global transfer pricing conference in Washington DC that although Congressional Republicans and the White House are generally 80 percent in agreement on key issues for tax reform, he has not ruled out the BAT proposal.

Hatch noted the resistance against the BAT, including from certain industries that are “downright apoplectic” about it, but then went on to state that it will have a difficult time becoming law:

“I don’t think I’m making any news when I say that, given the small margin of error we have in the Senate and the number of senators who oppose the very concept of a [BAT], the proposal will have a difficult time becoming law. That said, I want to see the specifics of the proposal and find out if it works like its proponents say it will. Until then, I’m not going to publicly rule anything out.”

Hatch also said on Wednesday that the tax reform plan should include a conversion to a territorial system, which would see only revenue generated in the U.S. taxed. Under the current system, all revenue earned by U.S. ­incorporated companies, regardless of where it is earned, is taxed.  As Hatch stated

“My position has, I believe, remained clear: A territorial system will put us on par with other industrialized countries and allow our businesses to compete in the global marketplace.”

On June 15, 2017, it was reported that Kevin Brady, Chairman of House Ways and Means, has proposed a five year transition to a BAT to make it more palatable.  As Brady stated:

“My current thinking on border adjustment … is a five-year transition.  We’ll be lifting the ‘Made in America’ tax [on exports] at the same rate.  A very gradual five-year phase-in really resolves a lot of the challenges.”

But many opponents argued that a five year transition did not make the BAT a good idea.

TRADE ADJUSTMENT ASSISTANCE FOR FIRMS/COMPANIES – A BETTER ALTERNATIVE TRADE REMEDY WHICH ACTUALLY WORKS

As indicated in previous blog posts, I feel very strongly about the Trade Adjustment Assistance for Companies program because with very low funding it has a true track record of saving US companies.  In fact, in the ongoing Section 201 case on Solar Cells, the statute requires the industry seeking protection to provide a trade adjustment plan to the Commission to explain how the industry intends to adjust if trade relief is provided.  The problem is that the Commission is not the entity with experience on determining whether the Trade Adjustment plans are viable.  The entities with that experience in trade adjustment plans are the various trade adjustment centers throughout the US.

Donald Trump’s proposed budget, however, would 0 out the trade adjustment assistance for companies program.  Although Secretary Wilbur Ross has made it very clear he wants to increase exports to reach the 3% plus growth rate, putting protectionist walls up to limit imports of steel, aluminum and many other products invites retaliation.

The Trade Adjustment Assistance for Firms/Companies program does not put up barriers to imports.  Instead the TAA for Companies program works with US companies injured by imports to make them more competitive.  The objective of TAA for Companies is to save the company and by saving the company it saves the jobs that go with that company.

In contrast to TAA for workers, TAAF or TAA for Companies is provided by the Economic Development Administration at the Commerce Department to help companies adjust to import competition before there is a massive lay-off or closure.  Yet the program does not interfere in the market or restrict imports in any way.

Right now the total cost to the US Taxpayer for this nationwide program is $12.5 million dollars—truthfully peanuts in the Federal budget.  Moreover, the Federal government saves money because if the company is saved, the jobs are saved and there are fewer workers to retrain and the saved company and workers end up paying taxes at all levels of government rather than being a drain on the Treasury.  In his budget, Trump increases TAA for Workers, but kills TAA for Companies.  Yet to retrain the worker for a new job, the average cost per job is $5,000.  To save the company and the jobs that go with it in the TAA for Companies program, the average cost per job is $1,000.

Moreover, TAA for Firms/Companies works.  In the Northwest, where I am located, the Northwest Trade Adjustment Assistance Center, http://www.nwtaac.org/, has been able to save 80% of the companies that entered the program since 1984. The Mid-Atlantic Trade Adjustment Assistance Center, http://www.mataac.org, uses a video, http://mataac.org/howitworks/, to show in detail how the program resulted in significant turnarounds for four companies. The reason the TAA for Firms/Companies is so successful—Its flexibility in working with companies on an individual basis to come up with a specific adjustment plan to make them competitive once again in the US market as it exists today.  For a sample recovery plan, see http://mataac.org/documents/2014/06/sample-adjustment-plan.pdf, which has been developed specific to the strengths, weaknesses and threats each company faces.

But as also stated in my last blog post, in this environment with so many injured companies, funding for TAA for Firms/Companies has to be increased so it can do its job.   Moreover, with the threats of a massive trade war in the air, which will injure all US companies and destroy US jobs, the US government needs to look at an alternative—TAA for Firms/Companies is that alternative.

FOREIGN ANTIDUMPING AND COUNTERVAILING DUTY LAW AND CASES

UNIVERSAL TRADE WAR CONTINUES

CHINA AD/CVD NEWSLETTERS

Attached are newsletters from Chinese lawyer Roland Zhu and his trade group at the Allbright Law Office about Chinese trade law.  Team’s newsletter-EN Vol.2017.22 Team’s newsletter-EN Vol.2017.23

SECTION 337 AND IP CASES

NO NEW 337 CASES AGAINST CHINA

If you have any questions about these cases or about Trump and Trade, the impact on downstream industries, the Section 232 cases, the 201 case against Solar Cells, border adjustment taxes, US trade policy, the antidumping or countervailing duty law, trade adjustment assistance, customs, False Claims Act or 337 IP/patent law, please feel free to contact me.

Best regards,

Bill Perry

US CHINA TRADE WAR–TRUMP AND TRADE, LIGHTHIZER AS USTR, BORDER ADJUSTMENT TAXES, MANUFACTURING CAN COME BACK TO THE US, TAA FOR COMPANIES, WTO CASES AGAINST ALUMINUM AND NME STATUS, AND 337

Washington Monument After the Snow Washington DCTRADE IS A TWO WAY STREET

“PROTECTIONISM BECOMES DESTRUCTIONISM; IT COSTS JOBS”

PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN, JUNE 28, 1986

US CHINA TRADE WAR JANUARY 12, 2017

Dear Friends,

This blog post contains several articles about recent developments in the Trump Transition and its impact on trade.  January 20th, inauguration day, is only 8 days away and Trump will be President.  The transition, however, moves quickly.

Although the past appointments of Governor Branstad of Iowa as Ambassador to China and Wilbur Ross to Commerce, two persons who know China well, indicate no potential trade war, the two latest appointments of Bob Lighthizer to USTR and Peter Nararro as Chairman of the National Economic Advisors indicate that protectionism, especially against China, is back on the menu.

Trump may be trying to use uncertainty to create leverage and a deal with the Chinese and other governments on trade and other topics.  Bob Lighthizer will be the hammer of the Trump trade policy that will negotiate those deals.

But the next question is how will Trump help revive manufacturing in the United States and help the Rust Belt states, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio, which put him in the White House?

One answer may be taxes, the border adjustment kind, which may, in fact, be a response to the Value Added Taxes levied on US exports.  Trump and Congress have apparently decided to fight fire with fire—mercantilism to fight mercantilism, border adjustment taxes to fight value added taxes, which put US exports at a major disadvantage.

No longer will the US take a passive approach to foreign trade barriers to US exports.  Trump and his team will raise US trade barriers to counter the trade barriers erected by other countries.  Reciprocity is the name of the game.

Moreover, the recent noises from many US companies indicate that they like what Trump is doing and manufacturing will move back to the US.  Low corporate taxes, less regulations and the threat of trade barriers will bring manufacturing back to the US.  In fact, it may even encourage Chinese and other foreign companies to move production to the United States.  Trump will do everything possible to increase jobs in the United States.

Also the US China Trade relationship is getting out to an interesting start in 2017 with the filing today, January 12, 2017, of a major WTO case against China on Aluminum.

Hopefully Trade Adjustment Assistance for Companies, which is the only effective US trade remedy that saves companies and the jobs that go with them, will expand.  But TAA for Companies is not TAA for Workers.  They are very different programs.

In addition, with regards to the recent WTO complaint China filed against the US and the EC for failing to give it market economy status under their antidumping and countervailing duty laws, Canada and Japan have now jumped into the case because of the impact on their trade laws.

Under the Universal Trade War theme, attached are newsletters from Roland Zhu of the Allbright Chinese law firm on Chinese trade law.

Finally, a recent 337 intellectual property case was filed against China on Basketball Backboard Components.

If anyone has any questions or wants additional information, please feel free to contact me at my e-mail address bill@harrisbricken.com.

Best regards,

Bill Perry

PS, If anyone wants to unsubscribe to the newsletter, please let me know and I will remove them from the list.

TRADE AND TRADE POLICY

TRUMP’S APPOINTMENTS NOW BECOME MORE PROTECTIONIST AND TOUGH ON TRADE—BUT MAYBE THAT IS WHAT IS NEEDED IN THIS ENVIRONMENT

After the first two appointments of Governor Branstad as ambassador to China and Wilbur Ross as new Commerce Department secretary, the two recent appointments of Bob Lighthizer as United States Trade Representative (“USTR”) and China critic, Peter Navarro, to head the National Trade Council indicate that the Trump Administration will take a much tougher line on trade and China.  Full disclosure in the late 1980s, as described more below, I worked for Bob Lighthizer at Skadden, Arps, and he is certainly a much tougher negotiator than any trade negotiator China or other countries have dealt with before.

Recently on Bloomberg news, I heard one bank spokesman say that their research group gives a 25% chance that under Trump the US will return to a Smoot Hawley situation, such as in the 1930s.  Although Lighthizer is a very tough guy, he is also a very experienced trade lawyer with substantial contacts in Congress so hopefully he will be pragmatic enough not to simply put up the protectionist walls and return the US to the 1930s.

But let there be no mistake, the Trump Administration will erect barriers to imports to offset the many trade barriers other countries, including Mexico, China and the EC, have erected against US exports.  Reciprocity will be the new approach to trade policy.

USTR FROMAN ADDS A PARTING SHOT

As present USTR Froman of the Obama Administration is leaving, he issued on January 5, 2017 the attached Cabinet Exit Memo, USTR-Exit-Memo.  In that Cabinet Exit Memo, Froman stated that the United States cannot withdraw from Globalization.  The issue is whether the US can shape globalization so as to benefit the US.  Froman also warned that if the US withdraws, the major beneficiary will be China.  As Froman stated:

“The fundamental economic question of our time is not whether we can stop globalization, but whether we can use all the tools at our disposal to shape globalization in a way that helps the majority of Americans, and reflects not just our economic interests, but our values.”

Froman went on to emphasize the importance of Agreements, such as the Trans Pacific Partnership (“TPP”):

“These agreements offer a positive vision for American leadership in the global economy.  This vision is vitally important, because in the absence of U.S. guidance and leadership, the world is likely to turn to alternative policy models that will put the United States at a permanent disadvantage.”

Froman went on to argue that the US can only counter China through negotiations that set high standards for the World’s trading countries:

“If we step back from a global leadership role, it will be our loss and China’s gain.  This alternative vision would place a large portion of America’s industry at risk of lost exports and create powerful incentives to invest in Asia in order to sell in Asia. Should this alternative come to dominate the next generation of trade agreements, the consequence will be an erosion of economic security and opportunity for all Americans.”

Froman apparently is arguing that the trade game cannot be changed and only small changes can be made through negotiations, such as the TPP, because globalization is here to stay.  Trump intends to overturn the trade policy table all together.

TRUMP PICKS AN ENFORCER ROBERT LIGHTHIZER AS NEXT UNITED STATES TRADE REPRESENTATIVE (“USTR”)

On January 3, 2017 Donald Trump announced that he has picked a very tough negotiator, Robert Lighthizer, a Skadden, Arps partner, as the next United States Trade Representative (“USTR”).  In doing so, Trump stated:

“Ambassador Lighthizer is going to do an outstanding job representing the United States as we fight for good trade deals that put the American worker first.  He has extensive experience striking agreements that protect some of the most important sectors of our economy, and has repeatedly fought in the private sector to prevent bad deals from hurting Americans. He will do an amazing job helping turn around the failed trade policies which have robbed so many Americans of prosperity.”

Almost 20 years ago, I worked with Lighthizer in the late 1980s at Skadden, Arps.  Before joining Skadden, Arps, Lighthizer was a Deputy USTR and was legendary.  One of my colleagues at Skadden told me that as a Deputy USTR when Lighthizer was negotiating with the Japanese government on a trade deal, he took one proposal from the Japanese government, folded it into a paper airplane and threw it out the door.

After Lighthizer joined Skadden in the late 1980s, Lighthizer brought in US Steel as a client and went on to represent US Steel for decades bringing many antidumping and countervailing duty cases against steel products from various countries.  Being the former Chief of Staff to Senator Robert Dole, the former Senate Majority leader, Lighthizer has extremely good contacts with the Republicans in Congress.

From my personal experience with Lighthizer, he will be an extremely tough negotiator with an agenda of protecting US companies from import competition and he will not be a friend of China, but that may be a good thing.  In contrast to the tough approach on trade of President Trump, Lighthizer may be the best choice free traders could get.  Lighthizer is a very experienced trade lawyer, who is not an ideologue, but a pragmatic deal maker.

More importantly, Trump’s appointment of an experienced tough trade lawyer as the USTR indicates that Trump does not really want a trade war.  He wants better, tougher deals more in line with US interests, such as a renegotiated NAFTA and possibly even a renegotiated TPP.  Trump is seeking to hire one of Washington’s top trade lawyers to negotiate tougher international trade agreements and then enforce them more vigorously.  Lighthizer, in effect, will be the hammer of Trump’s trade policy.

The desire for a much tougher trade policy is bipartisan.  Many Democratic lawmakers agree with Trump and many Republicans on a tougher trade policy.  On January 3rd, AFL-CIO President, Richard Trumka met with nine House Democrats to urge renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada and stating that he does not think Trump “has enough Republican support to do it, and rewriting the rules of trade is a necessary first step in righting the economy for working people.”

In response to the appointment, Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, who knows Lighthizer very well and will hold hearings on his nomination, stated:

“Ensuring our past, present, and future trade agreements are the best possible deals for American workers and job creators is a shared goal supported by pro- trade lawmakers and the Trump Administration alike. As the incoming administration undertakes this enormous responsibility, Bob will be a critical player in ensuring that America’s trade agenda reflects U.S. commercial interests, while helping set the standard for global trade. Armed with bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority, the incoming Trump Administration has a unique opportunity to pursue new, bilateral trade pacts of the highest caliber that can be submitted to Congress for an up or down vote with no amendments. As the world and our economic competitors move to expand their global footprints, we can’t afford to be left behind in securing strong deals that will increase access to new markets for American-made products and services, protect our intellectual property rights abroad, and ensure domestic businesses can successfully compete in the 21st century global economy. I look forward to a vigorous discussion of Bob’s trade philosophy and priorities when he comes before the Finance Committee.”

Bill Brock, the former USTR under President Reagan, stated:

“He is in most ways, if not many ways, in line with Trump’s comments during the campaign.  He’s very bright, he’s very aggressive.”

There was speculation prior to the Lighthizer appointment that USTR would take a secondary role in trade negotiations.  In fact, Lighthizer’s appointment indicates that Trump wants to make USTR under Lighthizer’s leadership the tip of sword in changing and negotiating tough trade agreements and enforcing them.  Of Trump’s trade advisors, only Lighthizer has government experience.

Alan Wolff, another former senior American trade official who represented the steel industry as co- counsel in many trade cases with Lighthizer, referred to Lighthizer’s broad knowledge of trade law and went on to state:

“Those who say U.S.T.R. will be subordinated to other agencies are mistaken.  He’ll be a dominant figure on trade, in harmony with Wilbur Ross and Navarro.”

Lighthizer’s appointment is a clear indication that the Trump Administration will focus on the enforcement of trade agreements and on the letter of the law.  Lighthizer is not a bull in a China shop.  He is a very smart, tough trade lawyer and negotiator, and he will do everything possible to protect the US industry.

And Lighthizer will be very tough with China.  In the attached 2010 statement testimony to the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, LIGHTHIZER 2010 STATEMENT US CHINA ECONOMIC SECURITY COMMISSION, Lighthizer stated:

Misjudging Incentives for Industries to Shift Production Wholesale to China and then Ship Back to the United States. . . . In other words, supporters assumed that since the United States had been granting MFN status to China for decades, granting MFN on a permanent basis would make no significant difference to how companies would serve this market.

But this assumption failed to account for the many incentives Western companies had to bet on the other side, and use China as a manufacturing platform to serve the U.S. market. As shown throughout this paper, China practices numerous forms of mercantilism – including subsidies, currency manipulation, and government programs that encourage developing new products in China – that give companies strong reasons to move production to that country. China’s relatively weak labor and environmental policies have a similar effect. China also manipulates raw material markets in a manner that encourages manufacturers to move there.  . . .

Many experts agree that our trading relationship with China presents a serious threat to our economy and the effective functioning of the WTO.  How should U.S. policymakers respond to these problems? As described in more detail below, I believe they should stop being so passive, take a number of straightforward steps to mitigate the harm caused by Chinese mercantilism, and consider more imaginative steps to deal with China.

We must stop being so passive. For ten years now, U.S. policymakers have done very little as China pursued policies that have resulted in an enormous trade imbalance. This approach has not worked, and it is past time for the U.S. government to become more aggressive. . . .

Lighthizer went on to state:

Indeed, I would take the argument even further. Trade policy discussions in the United States have increasingly been dominated by arcane disputations about whether various actions would be “WTO ­consistent” – treating this as a mantra of almost religious or moral significance.  The fact is that the WTO is built upon a framework of mutual concessions and purported mutual benefits from expanded trade and open markets. WTO commitments are not religious obligations, do not (and should not be construed to) impinge upon national sovereignty, and are not subject to coercion by some WTO police force. Viewing them as such – and implicitly establishing this viewpoint as the inviolate touchstone of all U.S. trade policy – is at odds with the structure of the WTO itself, not to mention the vociferous and repeated statements made by proponents of the WTO when it was established.

In this regard, WTO commitments represent mutually beneficial, market ­opening stipulations by individual countries. Where a country fails to fully implement commitments it has made, other countries are given the right to reciprocally suspend market­ opening commitments of their own – in an amount precisely equivalent to, and no greater than, the value of trade they have lost as a result of the derogation that has occurred. In this way, the entire WTO system is in a very real sense premised upon the assumption of relatively equal costs and benefits among and between WTO participants – whereby compliance with WTO norms is encouraged by the knowledge that derogations will result in the suspension of equivalent trade concessions. Where this relationship does not hold – that is, where a trade relationship has become so unbalanced that the threat of retaliation pales in comparison to the potential benefits of derogation – it only makes sense that a sovereign nation would consider what options are in its own national interest (up to and including potential derogation from WTO stipulations).

This need not be seen as some fundamental threat to the integrity of the WTO system.  Indeed, let me state explicitly that I am not advocating that the United States leave the WTO – that body is too important to us and the global trading system. I am merely pointing out that derogation may be a common sense, economically rational analysis by participants in the system – whereby potential decisions to derogate from WTO rules give rise to compensatory rights of other parties within the system.

Indeed, such an approach is plainly anticipated by the WTO agreements and has been acknowledged by U.S. policymakers. Properly understood, WTO rules do not infringe on the ability of individual nations to make their own sovereign decisions about economic policies –subject to the rights and obligations that flow from the WTO agreements themselves and any derogation of those agreements.   In this regard, U.S. officials have consistently stated that WTO commitments do not interfere with our national sovereignty, and that WTO rulings cannot alter U.S. law. These points were made repeatedly by Members of Congress during the debate over whether the United States should join the WTO. Furthermore, USTR has plainly stated that WTO legal panels “have no authority to change U.S. law or to require the United States or any state or local government to change its laws or decisions.” USTR has specifically explained that other countries cannot force the United States to comply with WTO law; instead, their only available response is to retaliate by withdrawing trade benefits . . .

In the context of U.S. ­China trade – whereby the United States is consistently running trade deficits viewed by virtually all rational observers as catastrophic and unsustainable – it is certainly advisable to consider all options available. To the extent that the United States were to consider more dramatic action to address the problem – such as tariffs or quantitative limitations that would arguably derogate from WTO commitments – the prospect of reciprocal denial of trade benefits by China must of course be assessed. At some point, however – where goods imports from China exceed $300 billion while U.S. exports to China are below $70 billion – one must ask whether potential retaliation from China really would or could even remotely offset the benefits to the United States of more aggressive trade measures. . . .

Of course, none of the policies I have suggested can be effective unless U.S. policymakers have the will to implement them in a strong and determined manner. For years, our economic position vis ­a ­vis China has deteriorated because U.S. policymakers have refused to take the inevitable risks associated with challenging Chinese mercantilism. As a result, we are now burdened with a trade imbalance that everyone agrees is unsustainable. Wringing our hands and hoping for the best is not the answer. We need strong leaders who are prepared to make tough decisions, and who will not be satisfied until this crisis has been resolved.

“One must ask whether potential retaliation from China really would or could even remotely offset the benefits to the United States of more aggressive trade measures.”

On the other hand, although Lighthizer’s statements show that he will be very tough on China, as certain trade experts have stated, in light of the very tough trade policy of the next President Donald Trump, Lighthizer’s appointment may be the best that free traders could hope for from this new Administration.  Lighthizer is a very smart, experienced political operator with excellent contacts in Congress, especially on the Republican side of the aisle, and a tough, outstanding negotiator.  But these experts also believe that Lighthizer is not a blind ideologue, but a pragmatic, rational deal maker.  After driving a very hard bargain and reaching a deal, he could end up even keeping NAFTA and possibly even the TPP.  Relations with China may actually improve, but only after a better deal is reached.

PETER NAVARRO TO HEAD NATIONAL TRADE COUNCIL

In another sign that the Trump Administration will take a much tougher line on China, on December 21, 2016, Trump announced that he has picked Peter Navarro, a China critic, to be the head of a new National Trade Council.   A Harvard trained economist, who is a professor at the University of California, Irvine, Navarro has taken a very strong position on China.  He is the author of a book, “Death by China”, which became a 2012 documentary film in which a Chinese knife stabs a map of the United States causing blood to throw.  See http://deathbychina.com/.  Navarro, in effect, argues that China is waging an economic war by subsidizing exports to the United States and blocking imports into China creating an enormous trade deficit.

Trump has stated that he will persuade China to change its policies by applying pressure through trade laws, designating China a currency manipulator, and, if necessary imposing high tariffs on Chinese imports.  As indicated below, however, those tariffs may actually be border adjustment taxes.

In a statement, Mr. Trump described Mr. Navarro as “a visionary economist” and said he would “develop trade policies that shrink our trade deficit, expand our growth and help stop the exodus of jobs from our shores.”

On December 23, 2016, in response the China Daily stated:

That individuals such as Navarro who have a bias against China are being picked to work in leading positions in the next administration, is no laughing matter. The new administration should bear in mind that with economic and trade ties between the world’s two largest economies now the closest they have ever been, any move to damage the win-win relationship will only result in a loss for both sides.

Still, Chinese companies in the US should be on high alert to a more difficult business climate.

US TRADE POLICY MAY CHANGE AND THREATS DO NOT HELP THE US CHINA TRADE RELATIONSHIP

There is an old saying in Chinese “Bei Mi Yang Feng You Dou Mi Yang Chao Ren” (杯米养朋友,斗米养仇人) one cup of rice makes a friend, thousands of cups of rice make an enemy.  Another old saying in English, give a person $5 make a friend, give a person $100 make an enemy.

Since World War II the United States has been a relatively open market and many foreign countries, including China, have benefitted.  As described more below, with border adjustment taxes and the current US economic situation, that situation may well change and could change dramatically.  Many countries will be very upset when the US starts to close down, in effect, favoring domestic products over imports.  When markets are taken away and countries lose their bag of rice, they will not be happy.

Mexico’s peso is in free fall and has fallen to the lowest level against the US in decades.  Mexico is in crisis because under pressure from Trump US companies are canceling plans to set up production facilities in Mexico and moving production facilities back to the US.  Mexico is not happy.

China is upset with the Lighthizer appointment and is talking about retaliation.  On January 4th, in response to the Lighthizer appointment, China’s state-run Media, the Global Times, warned Trump of ‘Big Sticks’ if he seeks a Trade War:

“There are flowers around the gate of China’s Ministry of Commerce, but there are also big sticks hidden inside the door — they both await Americans.”

When a current US China trade deficit of well over $300 billion, however, that threat rings hollow.

On January 9, 2017, State-run Chinese tabloid Global Times warned U.S. President-elect Donald Trump that China would “take revenge” if he reneged on the one- China policy, only hours after Taiwan’s president made a controversial stopover in Houston.

When the Chinese State-Controlled media, such as the Global Times, castigates Trump as an “ignorant child” and threatens the Trump Administration with Chinese retaliation, it is waving a red flag in front of a bull.  The new Trump Administration will not be intimidated.  It will not be bullied.  Threats will not work with this Administration.

So it is a much better idea to let cooler heads prevail and negotiate.  As stated above, the Trump Administration wants a deal and the Chinese government and other governments are extremely good negotiators so negotiate.

Let’s keep any Trade War at the cold war stage and not let it break out into a hot Trade War where every country, including the United States and China, are burned.

BORDER ADJUSTMENT TAXES MAY BE THE NEW TRADE PROTECTIONIST BARRIER TO IMPORTS

As stated in my last blog post, Trump and Republicans in Congress may be creating an alternative to tariffs to spur US manufacturing and that is taxes.  Tariffs have become so passé.  There is now an attempt in Congress to give American-made products a big tax advantage over their foreign competitors through border adjustment taxes, and, in effect, counter the value added taxes used in other countries to deter imports.

The key issue is a plan to fundamentally remake the tax system by taxing US companies based on where they sell their goods, not where the business happens to be located. As part of that, Republican tax legislators want to include what experts call “border adjustments” — new taxes on imports as well as tax rebates on exports.

Another fancy term for this new tax is “destination-based cash flow tax with border adjustment” or DBCFT.  This plan would replace the current corporate tax code with something known among experts as a “border-adjustable, destination-based” tax system.  Under their proposal, imports would be charged the same 20 percent tax that domestic companies would face. Exports would be excused from taxes.  It would amount to a fundamental change, with the government taxing companies based on where they sell their wares, rather than where the business is located.

The way this tax would work is if a U.S. company sold a product for $100 and it spent $70 on its workers’ pay, under the Republican plan the remaining $30 would be subject to the 20% tax. That would produce a $6 tax bill. An imported version of the same product would be forced to pay the 20% tax on the entire $100 sale, producing a $20 tax bill.

The best case for a border adjustment tax is an article by Stephen Moore, an expert on economic issues at the Heritage Foundation, in the International Business Daily in which he argues that a Border Adjustment Tax, in effect, is equivalent to the Value Added Tax that countries use to kill imports.  See http://www.investors.com/politics/columnists/stephen-moore-we-need-tax-reform-not-tariffs/.

As Moore states:

If America’s competitors were intentionally trying to design a tax system to destroy the American economy, they probably couldn’t come up with a dumber tax system than the way the United States currently taxes our own businesses.

To fully appreciate the stupidity of the American corporate tax, consider this simple example:

If you are an American company making cars in Michigan, you have to pay a 35% profits tax on the car made here and then if the car is sold across the border to Mexico, the Mexicans slap a 16% value added tax on the car, so it is taxed on both sides of the border. Almost all countries tax goods produced in the United States this way.

Now let us say that the auto factory is moved from Michigan to Mexico City. Now the car produced in the factory in Mexico is not taxed by the Mexicans if the auto is sold in the United States.

Even more amazing:  the U.S. imposes no tax on the imported car. To summarize, the car is taxed twice if it is built in America and then sold abroad and never taxed if it is built abroad and sold here in the U.S. And we wonder why companies are moving out in droves for China, India, Ireland, Mexico and the like.

Donald Trump is right. What we have in America is not free trade. It is stupid trade with the deck sacked against American producers and workers. Our federal tax is effectively a 35% tariff imposed on our own goods and services.

It doesn’t help matters that our 35% rate is the highest in the industrial world. Yet the corporate tax- despite being onerous and complex — and despite depressing employment, investment and wages here at home — raises very little revenue for the government. . . .

To create a level playing field, the U.S. has to reconstitute our tax system.  This can be accomplished by lowering the tax rate and then turning the tax on its head so we are taxing our imports, but not our exports. In other words, we should tax activities based on where they are consumed, not where they are produced.

This is called a border adjustable tax system, and here are the reasons we need to do it:

  • A border adjustable tax will end all talk of tariffs and trade wars.

tariffs violate our trade agreements and often lead to retaliatory measures by other countries. The free traders will rightly object loudly to these trade barriers.

A better solution is to impose the Trump 15% corporate income tax on goods when they are brought into the U.S. and exempt from tax goods produced in the U.S. but sold outside the U.S.

In other words, our corporate tax would be based on where goods are consumed, not on where they are produced.  This tax does not violate trade laws and only mirrors the valued added tax systems foreigners use to gain advantage over us. . . .

In exchange for a border adjustable tax, the U.S. should eliminate all existing tariffs and duties which can now range from 2% on shoes to 25% on toys. . .

Retailers like Walmart will complain . . .

We have to make things in America to make America great again. Tax reform is the key to making that happen.

In effect, taxes, whether border adjustment or value added, have become the new tariffs.  But if one is to look at it rationally, tariffs were always taxes.  In fact, after the American Revolution, the first tax the US Government used to run the government was tariffs on imported goods.

The fact that border adjustment taxes will hurt retailers is evidenced by Trump’s criticism of large internet retailer Amazon when he stated that Amazon will have “such problems” during his Presidency because of this new tax system.  Jeff Bezos, who owns Amazon also owns the Washington Post, and that newspaper has not been Trump’s friend.

The argument against the DBCFT is made by Brian Garst in the attached article, CFP_PolicyBrief_Border_Adjustment, entitled the “Political and Economic Risks of a Destination-Based Cash Flow Tax,” published in January 2017.  In the Article, Brian Garst argues:

The DBCFT would be a new type of corporate income tax that disallows any deductions for imports while also exempting export-related revenue from taxation.  This mercantilist system is based on the same “destination” principle as European value-added taxes, which means it is explicitly designed to preclude tax competition. . . . This mercantilist approach typically is associated with credit-invoice value-added taxes (VATs) that exist in European nations.

Garst goes on to state that in addition to retailers another target industry is energy because the United States is a net importer of oil and petroleum products.  Trump might argue, however, that when he is done cutting regulations the United States will be a net exporter of oil and petroleum products.  But Garst also points out that when other countries adopt the DBCFT, there will be more taxes on US exports.

More importantly, Garst points out what happens when the Democrats come back into power:

“In this case, left-leaning politicians would see the DBCFT not as something to be undone, but as a jumping off point for new and higher taxes.  A highly probable outcome is that the United States’ corporate tax environment becomes more like Europe, consisting of both consumption and income taxes.”

Garst goes on to add that the eventual result of higher taxes, no matter what they are called, is bigger government and slower economic growth.

On December 19, 2016, however, Chairman Brady of House Ways and Means stated that U.S. companies that rely on imports will “have to adjust” to a House Republican plan and that such a plan is a priority of the Trump Administration.  As Brady stated on a December 18th CSPAN program:

“We cannot leave in place any tax policies that encourage our companies to move their operations overseas just to sell back to the United States.  We want to listen to and find solutions with those who rely a lot on imported goods coming into America.”

The plan would apply a 20 percent corporate tax to revenues earned from goods and services consumed within the United States, while exempting economic activity outside the U.S, amounting to a 15 percent cut in the nominal corporate tax rate and eliminating corporate taxes on U.S. exports.

The opposition to this new tax system is not only from retailers but from US producers, which either assemble products in the US from imported parts or use cheaper raw materials to produce competitive value added products.  Many manufacturing groups that rely on global supply chains, such as Boeing and other companies, should be very concerned about this new policy.

But the border adjustment tax proposal has allowed Trump to call out automobile companies, such as GM, which produce substantial cars in Mexico and praise Ford Motor Co. for its decision to scrap plans for a $1.6 billion factory in Mexico.  The threat of a border adjustment tax is enough during this Presidential transition period to cause US companies to bring production back to the US.

Many businesses that rely on imported raw materials or component parts, will not be able to deduct the cost of imported goods under the GOP plan, the full value of these goods is taxed instead of just the value added in the U.S.  This means that even if Congress lowers the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to the Republicans’ proposed 20% or 15%, companies could still see an effective increase in their tax rates.

Jennifer Safavian, the executive vice president of government affairs at the Retail Industry Leaders Association, recently made this point stating:

“With this tax on imports, we actually will see our effective tax rate increase.  It will increase, in some cases, double or three times the amount we’re paying right now. Some companies are concerned that they will actually have to go out of business because they’ll owe more in taxes than they’ll actually bring in in income.”

COULD MANUFACTURING RETURN TO THE UNITED STATES?

As stated above, during just this Presidential transition period, the threat of border adjustment taxes and a dramatic change in trade policy, along with cuts to corporate taxes to as low as 15 to 25% and regulations rollback, has caused many companies, such as Ford, Softbank, Fiat, Sprint and Carrier, to announce their reduction or abandonment of offshore production and their movement back to the United States.  Jack Ma at Alibaba also met with Trump to state that he believes 1 million more jobs can be added in the US from small and medium size business.

In December 2016, small business optimism in the United States has soared to levels not seen in over ten years.  The National Federation of Independent Business Index jumped 7.4 points in December the highest since 2004.  Trump and Congress are using carrots and sticks to move US production and jobs back to the United States.

With almost 40% of the US population on some form of welfare, the situation has to change.  Even here in Seattle, one dramatic example of the state of economy during the Obama Administration has been the dramatic rise in homeless camps.  The election of Trump means change.  And change it will be.

Recently, a Chinese entrepreneur asked me how could manufacturing move from China back to the United States because China has so many advantages.  In October 2016, Fuyao Glass announced a $1 billion investment into Moraine Ohio and Plymouth Michigan to start producing windshields in the United States.  When Chinese media and the government asked the owner Cho Tak Wong why he was moving production to the United States.  There were two answers: higher wages in China and higher tax rates.

Wages in China have steadily moved upward and the lower wage countries now are Vietnam, Bangladesh and other countries.  Much of China’s textile manufacturing capability has moved to Bangladesh in the search of lower wages.

Another major problem in China is taxes.  Although the US has the highest corporate tax rate of 35% in the developed countries, higher than China, China has corporate tax rates ranging from 25 to 33%.  More importantly, China has a personal income tax rate of 45% with US tax rates for the highest incomes ranging from 35 to 39.6%.

When I started working in China in the 1990s and all the way until about 5 to 10 years ago, although the tax rates were high, the Chinese government was very liberal on deductions.  The more expenses the company and the person had, the lower the actual tax rate.  Thus Chinese employees were always looking for a “fapiao”, a receipt so that they could claim expenses.

But several years ago, the Chinese government cracked down and started to enforce the actual tax rates.  High tax rates give companies and individuals a real incentive to leave the place where they are located.  Residents vote with their feet.  We can see that in the United States, where high tax rates in the states of New York and California have caused companies and people to move to lower tax states like Texas and Washington State, which has no state personal income tax.  An old economic saying, when you tax more of anything, you get less of it.

China and the United States are competing with other countries to attract foreign investment and even domestic investment in their own countries.  Higher tax rates and excessive regulations cause companies to move and seek better places to produce products.

Another reason to move to another country is trade restrictions.  In the early 2000s, Windshields from China were hit with a US antidumping case.  I represented two companies in the case, Xinhe and Benxun; Fuyao was represented by another law firm.  Antidumping rates in this case went down to single digits and eventually the case went away.  But this does not mean a new case could not be brought.

Fuyao coming to the US to escape potential US trade cases is nothing new.  Many, many Japanese companies, including automobile companies, Toyota and Honda, auto part companies, such as Nippon Denso, television producers, such as Sanyo, portable electric typewriter companies, such as Brother, and photography companies, such as Fuji, set up production operations in the United States to get around US antidumping orders and other trade restrictions.  In fact, Chinese solar companies, such as Wanxiang Energy, have started producing solar panels in the United States to get around move US antidumping and countervailing duty orders against Chinese solar cells and solar panels.

So manufacturing can move back to the United States if the business environment is better than other countries.  When companies move back to the US and economic growth increases significantly, all boats rise and that means more good paying jobs and the average American will do better.

TRADE ADJUSTMENT ASSISTANCE FOR FIRMS/COMPANIES – A BETTER ALTERNATIVE TRADE REMEDY WHICH ACTUALLY WORKS

TAA FOR FIRMS/COMPANIES IS NOT TAA FOR WORKERS

In my blog post last month, an open letter to the new Commerce Department secretary was included about the Trade Adjustment Assistance for Firms/Companies program.  It is important, however, to distinguish TAA for Companies from TAA for Workers.  The two programs are very different.

TAA for Workers is government money given to displaced workers to retrain workers.  On January 12, 2017, Jamie Dimon of Chase spoke out on Good Morning American about TAA for Workers.  In the past when Dimon has spoken out for TAA for Workers, financial publications, such as Forbes, have spoken out against the program because they view the $711 million program as an entitlement, a handout to workers, that does not save jobs.

The TAA for Firms/Companies program, however, is very different from the TAA for Workers program because the objective of TAA for Companies is to save the company and by saving the company save the jobs that go with that company.  I believe that publications, like Forbes, might change their tune if they knew that President Reagan probably personally approved the TAA for Firms/Companies program.  Why do I say this? Jim Munn.

Congress started the TAA adjustment assistance programs in 1962 as part of the Trade Expansion Act and as a means of securing support for the Kennedy Round of multilateral trade negotiations.  Trade Adjustment Assistance essentially was a tradeoff.  If Unions and Workers would support trade liberalization, including free trade agreements, workers would be compensated because of the disruption caused by increased imports.

In the early 1980s, President Reagan himself put in requirements to set up standards so that Trade Adjustment Assistance for Workers would not simply be an open ended entitlement.   President Reagan, however, was puzzled by the TAA for Companies and asked an old friend, Jim Munn, here in Seattle to look into the program.

As stated in the attached 2002 obituary, JIM MUNN, Jim Munn was a famous criminal lawyer in Seattle and an early supporter and personal friend of Ronald Reagan.  I am now on the Board of Directors of the Northwest Trade Adjustment Assistance Center (“NWTAAC”).  When I started my involvement in NWTAAC, I was told that the Center was in place because President Reagan himself asked Jim Munn to look into the program.

Both President Reagan and Jim Munn were firmly opposed to government interference in the marketplace.  What did Jim Munn discover when he looked into the Trade Adjustment Assistance Program for Companies?  It works.  Jim Munn decided to head up NWTAAC for the next 22 years.

In contrast to TAA for workers, TAAF or TAA for Companies is provided by the Commerce Department to help companies adjust to import competition before there is a massive lay-off or closure.  Yet the program does not interfere in the market or restrict imports in any way.

Right now the total cost to the US Taxpayer for this nationwide program is $12.5 million dollars—truthfully peanuts in the Federal budget.  Moreover, the Federal government saves money because if the company is saved, the jobs are saved and there are fewer workers to retrain and the saved company and workers end up paying taxes at all levels of government rather than being a drain on the Treasury.

As stated in my last blog post, TAA for Firms/Companies works.  In the Northwest, where I am located, the Northwest Trade Adjustment Assistance Center, http://www.nwtaac.org/, has been able to save 80% of the companies that entered the program since 1984. The Mid-Atlantic Trade Adjustment Assistance Center, http://www.mataac.org, uses a video, http://mataac.org/howitworks/, to show in detail how the program resulted in significant turnarounds for four companies. The reason the TAA for Firms/Companies is so successful—Its flexibility in working with companies on an individual basis to come up with a specific adjustment plan to make them competitive once again in the US market as it exists today.  For a sample recovery plan, see http://mataac.org/documents/2014/06/sample-adjustment-plan.pdf, which has been developed specific to the strengths, weaknesses and threats each company faces.

But as also stated in my last blog post, in this environment with so many injured companies, funding for TAA for Firms/Companies has to be increased so it can do its job.

An article from David Holbert, Executive Director Northwest TAAC, below states how the program works in more detail.

IMPORTS HAVE LANDED – SOMETHING HAS TO CHANGE

David Holbert, Executive Direct Northwest TAAC

The issue of trade competition and lost jobs is well discussed in the media.  I work with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) who are negatively affected by import competition, what is often called “trade impact” in policy lingo. It’s a big issue. According to the U.S Trade Representative, the United States’ 30 million SMEs account for nearly two-thirds of net new private sector jobs in recent decades. This is one in a series of posts about trade impact.

In a previous post I talked about recognizing trade impact. Once a company figures out that imports are the cause of sales declines, they must respond. That response depends on the specifics of the trade threat.

Companies work within a set of cost and market access factors. Where those factors are shared, a new competitor or an established one upping their game, is usually a manageable theat. Some alteration in course might be recommended, but it is all in the range of expectations in a competitive landscape. Imports, however, generally perceive a significant advantage before they enter a market – whether that’s in design, technology, scale, or cost. Extreme cost differentials tend to be the province of imports and, more specifically, imports from low-labor cost, low-regulation sources. New arriving imports tend to be very strong competitors if not disrupters.

Before the imports arrived, customers had seen value in the available options. Now those customers can see a better cost-benefit exchange with the imported product.  Unattended, the new entrant (the import) will gain market share – the only questions are how much and how fast.

Imports may have any of several weaknesses:

  • Importers are probably bearing a loss producing level of initial expense to establish a brand, set up sales capability, and establish distribution and service networks. The domestic company already is established, or can become so more easily.
  • Importers often have to order and ship in large quantities. It takes time for delivery to occur. What is an advantage in a standard product/price sensitive segment is a disadvantage in a customized / price elastic segment. Customization is almost always an advantageous capability for the domestic company
  • Importer service capability and quality can be weak. Service can be a challenge for those in different time zones, and speaking different languages. In low-cost economies, businesses often display a culture that values cost and quantity over all else. Quality and service are likely comparative strengths of the domestic company.

If the price differential is minor, improvements in operations without changing the business model may close the gap. The challenge is not less urgent, just less extensive. Every business I’ve worked with has a list of pending improvements. Now would be the time to implement some of these. Topping the list would the ones that lead to revenue faster. At this stage, the domestic company is probably losing sales. To the extent that you need a “plan”, that list is probably it. Let’s call it the minimum required response.

If the price differential is large, the business will face the uncharted territory of strategic change. That change will likely affect product, systems, processes, distribution, promotion, and pricing.  In other words, everything.

Just as every business owner has a list of pending improvements, they also have more than one idea about a serious change in course. That is very likely an incomplete list. How could it be otherwise? Whatever the right change may be, the confidence to take that leap will almost certainly be absent. That is where TAA comes in.  Most people don’t realize how thin of a line of viability businesses walk. It took a lot to get to the point where things work. A lot of what seemed like good ideas were proven wrong along the way. Changing that formula under conditions of less than certainty and necessity is almost always a bad idea. With trade impact, a business may have a condition of necessity. Now that business has to work on certainty.

It is not exactly clear how to get to that state of envisioning a strategic change with confidence and assurance. For a business owner, this is a life’s work. For the record, there are consultants that are capable in this area. Not that hiring in help is necessarily a solution.  What is clear is that a full range of options and information supporting them become precious commodities.

Here are how some companies with TAA help dealt with trade impact:

A commercial products company makes a specialized tool and faced a sudden entry of imports at close to half the price. The company’s plan was to radically improve operations in the same market position. The owners had been complacent in a mature market. The plan included such actions as developing an automated version of the tool, emphasizing service and parts replacement capability, and revising sales and promotion activity. This works in commercial markets because buyers are informed and easily value factors like quality, service, and durability.

A contract manufacturer that machines metal parts specializing in titanium had lost their single industry customer base to imports. The owner recognized that their capabilities would be valued in the aerospace industry. Achieving AS9100 (aerospace industry quality certification) was an essential step. Entering the industry and becoming known among buyers was the larger challenge. This works because at the time aerospace was growing in the region.

  • A nut grower was priced out of its commodity market position by imports. The owners had thought of packaging for consumers and private labeling. With TAA help, they gained the confidence to proceed. It was exactly the right move –they removed a layer of distribution and gained back their profit margin. The company grew at tech industry rates.
  • A safety products producer was being displaced in large retailers by imports priced about 50% lower. With outside TAA consultants, they developed a radical plan to concentrate on commercial uses of their products that emphasized perpetual restocking rather than consumer products as final articles. This entailed converting from producing hundreds of low-cost, finished products a week to producing dozens of high-cost units and thousands of micro-orders of replacement articles. The company reversed sales declines in a surprisingly short time.

Threats from imports tend to be severe. They may have an insurmountable cost advantage. Under these conditions, the domestic company cannot win by just trying harder – something has to change. The first thing that has to change is the plan for the business. Deferred improvements might become urgent necessities. Incompletely conceived ideas about a change in the business model might have to be seriously considered. In future posts, I’ll talk about challenges of implementation.

Our role at the Northwest Trade Adjustment Assistance Center is to help small and medium-sized companies that are negatively affected by trade. Sometimes called “made in America grants” this federal program offers a matching fund for outside expertise of up to $75,000 for qualifying companies.  NWTAAC serves companies in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska. You can learn more about us at NWTAAC.org.

NEW US WTO CASE AGAINST ALUMINUM FROM CHINA

On January 12, 2017, in the attached notice, Obama Administration Files WTO Complaint on China’s Subsidies to Aluminum Produ, USTR announced that it was bringing a WTO case against China for its subsidies to aluminum producers.  As the notice states in part:

United States Trade Representative Michael Froman announced today that the United States has launched a new trade enforcement complaint agains the People’s Republic of China at the World Trade Organization (WTO) concerning China’s subsidies to certain producers of primary aluminum.  This action follows numerous bilateral eforts by the Obama Adminisration to persuade China to take strong seps to address the excess capacity situation in its aluminum sector.  The complaint fled today begins a process to address U.S. concerns that China’s subsidies appear to have caused “serious prejudice” under WTO rules to U.S. interests by artifcially expanding Chinese capacity, production and market share and causing a significant lowering in the global price for primary aluminum. Today’s announcement marks the 16th trade enforcement challenge the Obama Adminisration has launched agains China at the WTO.

“This lates challenge once again demonsrates the Obama Adminisration’s unwavering commitment to ensuring a fair and level playing field for American workers and businesses,” said United States Trade Representative Michael Froman. “Artifcially cheap loans from banks and low-priced inputs for Chinese aluminum are contributing to excess capacity and undercutting American workers and businesses. Today’s action follows significant engagement by this Adminisration on excess capacity and demonstrates our commitment to hold China to its trade obligations. Our record of tough enforcement with China speaks for itself: When China cheats, we’ve been right there, securing recourse for our workers, farmers, ranchers and businesses. This is the 16th time we have taken action agains China at the WTO, and we’ve won every challenge that has been decided.”

CANADA AND JAPAN JUMP INTO CHINA’S WTO CASE AGANST THE US AND EC FOR FAILURE TO GIVE CHINA MARKET ECONOMY STATUS IN AD AND CVD CASES

As indicated in the past blog post, pursuant to the China WTO Accession Agreement, from the Chinese point of view December 11, 2016 is the date when countries can no longer treat China as a nonmarket economy under their antidumping (“AD”) and countervailing duty (“CVD”) law.  Neither the United States nor the EC declared China a market economy country on December 11th so predictably China filed a WTO complaint against the US and EC over their price comparison methodologies used in their AD and CVD laws.

On January 5, 2017, Canada and Japan decided to jump into the WTO case as third-party observers, citing the case’s potential to dramatically alter global antidumping laws.  As Canada stated in its announcement:

“In many cases, Canadian exports to the United States compete directly with exports from China. As a result, Canada has a substantial trade interest in these proceedings which concern the ability of U.S. investigating authorities to properly determine normal values for allegedly dumped Chinese exports.”

As the Japanese Government stated:

“The legal basis of China’s complaint identified in its requests, if accepted, appears to affect anti-dumping investigation practice of many WTO Members … and in turn have substantial impact on international trade involving products originating in China.  Japan is one of the major importers of goods … from China and one of the users of anti-dumping measures.”

The dispute is at the consultation stage, but will soon move on to a WTO panel.

FOREIGN ANTIDUMPING AND COUNTERVAILING DUTY LAW AND CASES

UNIVERSAL TRADE WAR CONTINUES

With the election of Donald Trump, as stated in my last newsletter, the Universal Trade War will continue.  In addition to the US bringing AD and CVD cases, countries around the World, such as EC, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, India, Turkey, Ukraine, Russia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Australia, Thailand, South Africa, and Vietnam, all are filing antidumping and countervailing duty cases against each other and the United States.  These countries have adopted the US law which finds dumping in 90% of the cases.  The US and the EC have created a Frankenstein in the antidumping law and the whole World has adopted it.

Compromise is the best way to settle trade disputes, but it is very difficult, if not impossible, to settle US antidumping and other trade cases.  What is “fair” trade for the United States is “fair” trade for every other country.  Many countries want to make their industries Great again.

Because of this situation, this part of the newsletter will concentrate on trade cases in other countries and how other countries see the trade problem with the United States.

CHINA

CHINA AD/CVD NEWSLETTERS

Attached are newsletters from Chinese lawyer Roland Zhu and his trade group at the Allbright Law Office about Chinese trade law.  Team’s newsletter-EN Vol.2016.47 Team’s newsletter-EN Vol.2016.48 Team’s newsletter-EN Vol.2017.01 Team’s newsletter-EN Vol.2017.02.

SECTION 337 AND IP CASES

NEW 337 CASES AGAINST CHINA

BASKETBALL BACKBOARD COMPONENTS

On December 30, 2016, in the attached ITC notice, BASKETBALL 337, Lifetime Products, Inc. filed a section 337 patent case against Russell Brands, LLC d/b/a Spalding, Bowling Green, Kentucky; and Reliable Sports Equipment (Wujiang) Co. Ltd.,   China.

If you have any questions about these cases or about Trump and Trade, border adjustment taxes, US trade policy, the antidumping or countervailing duty law, trade adjustment assistance, customs, False Claims Act or 337 IP/patent law, please feel free to contact me.

Best regards,

Bill Perry

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