US CHINA TRADE WAR–CHINA RETALIATION, 201 REMEDIES, VITAMIN C, TRUMP AND TRADE, TAX BILL, SECTION 301 CHINA, SECTION 201 SOLAR CELLS, SECTION 232 STEEL AND NEW CASES

TRADE IS A TWO WAY STREET

“PROTECTIONISM BECOMES DESTRUCTIONISM; IT COSTS JOBS”

PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN, JUNE 28, 1986

US CHINA TRADE WAR FEBURARY 5, 2017 CHINA TRADE RETALIATION UPDATE

Dear Friends,

What goes around comes around.  President Trump has threatened retaliation against China and countries for various misdeeds by raising tariffs.  But the Chinese government has now upped the game and responded with its own trade case against US agricultural exports of Sorghum Grain to China.

MOFCOM SELF-INITIATES ANTIDUMPING AND COUNTERVAILING DUTY CASE AGAINST SORGHUM GRAIN FROM THE US

On December 1, 2017, in the first time in over a decade, the Commerce Department self-initiated an antidumping and countervailing duty case against imports of aluminum sheet from China.

On February 4, 2018, Ministry of Commerce (“MOFCOM”) in China retaliated by self-initiating its own antidumping and countervailing duty case against imports of US sorghum grain.  Total China imports of US Sorghum Grain in 2016 were 5,869,000 tons worth more than $1.26 billion USD.

Notices of appearance are due at MOFCOM by February 24th.

In addition to dumping, the case targets large US agricultural subsidies for sorghum grain, such as Crop Insurance Program, Price Loss Protection Program, Agricultural Risk Protection Program, Marketing Loan Program, Export Credit Guarantee Program, Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development Partner Program.

Some of the US companies that may be the targets of this MOFCOM action are: Agniel Commodities, LLC, Attebury Grain, LLC, Big River Resources, Bluegrass Farms of Ohio, Inc., Bunge North America, Inc., Cardinal Ethanol, LLC, Cargill, Inc., Consolidated Grain and Barge Co., DeLong Company  Inc., Enerfo USA, Inc., Fornazor International Inc., Freepoint Commodities LLC, Gavilon, Illinois Corn Processing, LLC, International Feed, Louis Dreyfus Commodities, Marquis Grain Inc., Mirasco Inc., Pacific Ethanol, Inc., Perdue AgriBusiness, LLC, The Scoular Company, Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy, LLC, Tharaldson Ethanol Plant I, LLC, United Wisconsin Grain Producers, and Zeeland Farm Services.  Attached is a list of more potential US target companies, US exporters of grain sorghum to China

This case is important because it signals the possible start of a trade war with China.  The US self-initiates antidumping and countervailing duty cases against China; China self-initiates antidumping and countervailing duty cases against the US.

President Trump has been threatening to levy numerous tariffs against China and other countries, but this Sorghum Grain trade case indicates that there is a price to pay for US tariffs and trade actions. Many in Washington DC are used to dealing with Japan, Taiwan and South Korea with regards to trade, but those countries are dependent on the United States for their national security.  Throw a trade rock at those countries, and they rarely throw one back.

China, however, is not dependent on the United States for its national security.  Throw a trade rock at China, and they will throw one back.  Moreover, this Sorghum Grain case is aimed directly at President Trump’s constituency—agriculture and the rural states.

Both the Wall Street Journal and Investors Business Daily in numerous editorials have warned the Trump Administration that the only major economic issue that could stop the rise in the economy is a trade war.  Trump and the Republicans have tied their political star to the rising US economy.  But if Trump levies more tariffs against Chinese imports, expect the Chinese government to retaliate and aim its trade guns at products and constituencies that will hurt Trump and the Republicans the most—agriculture.

If anyone has any questions about this case, please feel free to contact me.

US CHINA TRADE WAR JANUARY 25, 2018 SOLAR CELLS 201 UPDATE

Dear Friends,

Attached is the Solar Cells Presidential Proclamation with Annexes, which was published today January 25th in the Federal Register, FEDERAL REGISTER NOTICE PRESIDENTIAL PROCLAMATION SOLAR CELLS.  According to the Annex I (f), the 30% tariff will be applied to imports starting February 7, 2018.

In addition, a number of countries are excluded in Annex 1(b) from the tariff, including India and Ukraine, so long as their share of imports does not exceed 3%.

Within 30 days, the United States Trade Representative’s office (“USTR”) will publish a Federal Register notice, which will allow companies to petition for exclusion.  The Proclamation specifically also states that the President has “determined to exclude certain products from this action and goes on to state in paragraph 15, 4:

Within 30 days after the date of this proclamation, the USTR shall publish in the Federal Register procedures for requests for exclusion of a particular product from the safeguard measure established in this proclamation. If the USTR determines, after consultation with the Secretaries of Commerce and Energy, that a particular product should be excluded, the USTR is authorized, upon publishing a notice of such determination in the Federal Register, to modify the HTS provisions created by Annex I to this proclamation to exclude such particular product from the safeguard measure described in paragraph 8 of this proclamation.

Consumer products with solar cells, such as solar-powered backpacks and lanterns, will likely be excluded from the tariffs, but it will be tough to get other products out.

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

Best regards,

Bill Perry

JANUARY 23, 2018 UPDATE

Dear Friends,

A number of clients and news outlets have called me because yesterday, the United States Trade Representative’s office issued its Section 201 determinations in the Solar Cells and Washing Machines 201 cases.  The USTR announcements are attached. 201 USTR ANNOUNCEMENT SOLAR WASHING MACHINES President Trump Approves Relief for U.S

This update will address these two remedy announcements and also the decision by the US Supreme Court to look at the Vitamin C Antitrust case.

Best regards,

Bill Perry

IT BEGINS? SECTION 201 SOLAR CELLS/WASHING MACHINE DECISIONS

Yesterday, the United States Trade Representative’s office (“USTR”) announced affirmative Section 201 decisions in the Solar Cells and Washing Machines cases and issued tariffs.  The question is whether these decisions represent the first layer of bricks that President Trump puts up in a protectionist wall around the US.  We will have to wait and see.  The real test will be what President Trump does in the Section 232 cases on Steel and Aluminum.

But one interesting point is that Suniva, the US company that filed the Section 201 Solar Cells case, is majority owned by a Chinese Solar Manufacturer, Shunfeng International Clean Energy Ltd.

In the 1980s, as a result in part of a Section 201 case against imports of Automobiles and a Voluntary Restraint Agreement issued by the Japanese Government, Japanese car companies set up manufacturing operations in the United States.  Many Chinese solar companies may follow Shunfeng’s lead and set up manufacturing operation in the US.  That is especially true as the new Trump Tax Bill kicks in dropping corporate tax rates to 21%.

The remedies for the two Section 201 cases are specifically set forth below.

SOLAR CELLS

In the Solar Cells case, the remedy is:

Safeguard Tariffs on Imported Solar Cells and Modules
Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4
Tariff increase 30% 25% 20% 15%
  • First 2.5 gigawatt of imported cells are excluded from the additional

It is still unclear how this will work in the sense that imports of the first 2.5 gigawatt are excluded from the additional tariff.  But in talking to one small solar cell importer, at the most during the year they import a total of 1 megawatt.  This tells me that the new tariffs first will not be retroactive and second probably will kick in after several months each year, when total imports reach the 2.5 Gigawatt level.

As stated before, these 201 tariffs are applicable to imports from all countries, including China, Malaysia, Germany, Canada and Mexico.  When total imports of solar cells and modules reach the 2.5 gigawatt level, the new tariff kicks in.  So, for example, if total imports of solar cells and modules into the US reach the 2.5 gigawatt level on May 15th, imports after that will be hit with a tariff.

WASHING MACHINES

The Washing Machines Remedy is set forth below.  This is similar to the Solar Cells Remedy in the sense that the first 1.2 million washers will have a lower tariff and the higher tariff will not kick in until after total imports reach the 1.2 million unit level.

Also 50,000 units of covered parts are excluded from the tariff.

Tariff-Rate Quotas on Washers
Year 1 Year 2 Year 3
First 1.2 million units of imported

finished washers

20% 18% 16%
All subsequent imports of finished

washers

50% 45% 40%
Tariff of covered parts 50% 45% 40%
Covered parts excluded from tariff 50,000 units 70,000 units 90,000 units

So the point of both remedies is import quickly into the US market.  The first imports into the country in the Solar Cells case will have no tariff and in the Washing Machines case will have a lower tariff.

VITAMIN C ANTITRUST CASE RISES FROM THE ASHES

With the Second Circuit Appeal Court ruling in September 16, 2016 against the US importers, many assumed that the Vitamin C antitrust case against the Chinese companies was dead.  But on January 12, 2018, in the attached notice, 011218zr_3d9g (1), the Supreme Court announced that it was accepting the importers’ petition for certiorari in the Animal Science Products, et al v. Hebei Welcome, et al., Vitamin C Antitrust case.  But the appeal is specifically limited to question 2 raised in the Animal Science Products’ Petition for Certiorari:

  1. Whether a court may exercise independent review of an appearing foreign sovereign’s interpretation of its domestic law (as held by the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eleventh, and D.C. Circuits), or whether a court is “bound to defer” to a foreign government’s legal statement, as a matter of international comity, whenever the foreign government appears before the court (as held by the opinion below in accord with the Ninth Circuit).

So the question for the Supreme Court is whether the Chinese government’s characterization of its own law is conclusive in the proceeding.

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

Best regards,

Bill Perry

US CHINA TRADE WAR JANUARY 20, 2017 BLOG POST

Dear Friends,

Have been in China and then intensely involved in a steel antidumping and countervailing duty case on cold drawn mechanical tubing (“CDMT”) and only now can come up for air and turn my attention to the blog.

Moreover, there are so many mixed signals coming out of the White House on trade it is difficult to know which way Trump is going to go.  As indicated below, the problem is probably retaliation by other countries and agriculture.  Trump wants to be tough on trade but half of all US agriculture products are exported.  One third of all Iowa corn is exported to Mexico.

Trump cannot kill NAFTA or be so tough on trade that US agriculture exports become the target of retaliation.  Trump is winning and the Republicans stand a chance of holding their own in the mid-term elections if the US economy is doing very well.  But taking a very protectionist stance by killing imports could very well backfire and hurt the US economy deeply.  If the US economy goes down, Trump and the Republicans go down.

But this could be the month where the direction of Trump’s trade policy starts to truly come into focus.  President Trump has to decide whether to impose additional tariffs on Solar Cells by January 26th and on Washing Machines by February 4th. But more importantly in the next 90 days, President Trump has to decide whether to impose additional tariffs on steel imports pursuant to Section 232 national security case.  After Steel comes aluminum and possibly a new case on uranium.  In addition, in the Section 301 case against intellectual property and China, Trump is talking about “fines” against China, whatever that means.  Does that mean a trade war with China?

More importantly, the most important development in trade may be the passage of the Trump/Republican tax bill, which has slashed corporate taxes to 21%.  This dramatic tax reduction is creating a manufacturing renaissance in the United States.  Apple has announced that it is repatriating almost $250 billion from overseas, much of which will be used to create new manufacturing facilities in the United States.

Unemployment, including Black and Hispanic unemployment, is the lowest in decades.  One way to cure the trade problem is by making US companies more competitive and that is just what Trump and the Republicans have done.

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

WILL TRADE UPSET THE TRUMP ECONOMIC JUGGERNAUT IN JANUARY 2018?

TO DATE TRUMP HAS NOT IGNITED A TRADE WAR

Despite many warnings of doom and gloom regarding trade, some from this newsletter, President Trump apparently has taken a cautious approach to trade.  Although Trump has torn up the Trans Pacific Partnership (“TPP”) and threatened to pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement (“NAFTA”), Trump so far has gone slow on trade.  NAFTA has not been torn up, and to date President Trump has not imposed draconian tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum pursuant to the Section 232 National Security cases, probably in response to the many US producers that use imported steel and aluminum to produce downstream products made of steel.  Trump is learning that trade is “complicated”.

The Cold Drawn Mechanical Tubing (“CDMT”) case illustrates the problem with being tough on trade.  During the preliminary injury investigation at the ITC, one of my clients Voest Alipine Rotec (“Rotec”) told the US International Trade Commission (“ITC”) that if the ITC reached an affirmative preliminary injury determination, it would move offshore.  The ITC went affirmative and as Rotec testified in December at the ITC final hearing, Rotec opened up a new production facility in Mexico to take care of all of its export business, cutting US jobs.  When companies cannot get competitive raw materials, including steel products, they move offshore

TRUMP’S POLICIES HAVE CREATED AN ECONOMIC BOOM—CUTTING TAXES AND REGULATIONS WORKS

As indicated below in the article on the Tax Bill, another very important reason for Trump’s go slow approach is that the US economy is climbing upward like a rocket, and President Trump does not want to do anything to damage the trajectory of the economy.  On election day, the Dow Jones average was 18,259.  It has now climbed to over 26,000 creating over $5 trillion in new wealth.  Trump’s policy of cutting regulations and the passage of the Trump tax bill are major reasons for the huge surge in the economy.

Democratic officials under President Obama told the American public to get ready for the new normal—US economic growth domestic product (“GDP”) could not get higher than 2.2% and would never go over 3%.  In the first year of the Trump Presidency, the US GDP is 3.2%.  With the elimination of regulations and the new Trump tax bill, which cut the corporate tax from 35 to 21%, many economists are now forecasting in 2018 a US GDP above 4%.

When the GDP goes up, all boats rise, and everyone, including the lower and middle class, are better off.  Rising GDP means jobs and more jobs, exactly what Candidate Trump promised.  Unemployment is the lowest it has been in decade.  Hispanic and Black unemployment is the lowest it has been in decades.  Manufacturing is having one of its best years since 2004.

When all boats rise that means the lower middle class and middle-class incomes go up also, and that is Trump’s core constituency. The Republican’s road to victory in the upcoming midterms in 2018 and Trump’s reelection in 2020 is dependent upon the economy.  As President Clinton himself stated, “It’s the economy stupid.” If the economy is rising, everyone’s income goes up as there are more jobs, which means more voters pulling the Republican lever in the voting booth, and there is a chance the Republicans can hold their own in the mid-terms.  The economy goes down and the Republicans will be crushed.

During the first term of President Obama, Democratic Senators and Congressmen were warning President Obama to focus on jobs for the lower and middle-class workers.  President Obama ignored the advice and focused on health care and an infrastructure program that did not work.  The average American wants a job, not a handout, because jobs lead to the American dream– a house to own and a good middle-class life.

Trump understands this desire and has focused on this core principle, which is exactly what he promised to do as a candidate.

Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the House and Presidential candidate and one of the true thinkers in the Conservative Wing of the Republic party, is predicting a great political surprise—the size of the Republican victory in the midterms.  Directly contrary to the many statements of Democrats and pundits in the mainstream media, Gingrich makes the strong political argument that because of the sharp rise in the US economy, Republicans will do very well in the midterms.  See http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2017/12/28/newt-gingrich-get-ready-for-great-political-surprise-2018.html.  People may not like the Trump package, but his economic policy so far is working.

SLAMMING TRADE AND STOPPING IMPORTS COULD STOP THE ECONOMIC BOOM

But the one problem with Trump’s economic initiative, which could be the flaw in his and the Republican strategy, is trade.  If Trump embarks on a sharp protectionist push, withdrawing from NAFTA and raising tariffs for many products coming into the US, that could drop economic growth like a rock.  All the business investor publications, such as the Wall Street Journal and the Investors Business Daily, are warning Trump to go slow on trade and not rip up the global trading system.  If Trump decides to create a trade war with other countries, the economy will slow and the Republicans will have no hope of winning the midterms and Trump will be a one term President.

One major reason for that is agriculture.  On January 9, 2018 in an editorial entitled “Will Trump Punish the Farm Belt?” the Wall Street Journal raised this very point:

“The U.S. economy is starting to grow at a faster pace, and deregulation and tax reform are pointing to an investment boost in 2018. But the big economic policy question now is whether President Trump is going to dampen this new growth enthusiasm by imposing tariffs and kicking off a global trade war.

That issue was in high relief Monday in Nashville, where Mr. Trump delivered a speech [to the American Farm Bureau] touting his policies for the rural U.S. economy that benefits from free trade. Mr. Trump can rightly point to White House progress on reducing government barriers to growth in American agriculture. . . .

But farmers are scared stiff that Mr. Trump might take a protectionist turn that would impose more government barriers. Highly efficient and productive, U.S. farmers thrive in a competitive global market. But tariffs are border taxes that raise costs for U.S. producers and consumers. . . .

Mr. Trump already walloped U.S. farm exporters when he dropped out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which has given Europe, Australia and Canada an edge to meet growing Asian demand for high-value farm products. After Japan imposed 50% “safeguard” tariffs on frozen beef last July, U.S. imports dropped by a quarter. Imports from Australia, which has a trade deal with Japan and supplies about half of its frozen beef, increased by 30%.

Foreign leaders are working fast to lock in trade deals that are leaving the U.S. behind. In December the European Union finalized a “cars-for-cheese” pact with Japan that will slash tariffs on most dairy, meat and wine to zero from up to 30%. Canada last year reached an agreement with the EU that will make 99% of their exports duty-free.

Mr. Trump is also contemplating tariffs against China for stealing U.S. intellectual property. This should be addressed, but the danger is that U.S. agriculture is sure to be a top target for reprisal if the President gets into a trade war with Beijing. China is one of America’s top farm markets, with agricultural exports tripling over the past decade to $21.4 billion, including $14.2 billion in soybeans. Australia and Brazil can replace many U.S. exports in a trade spat.

The greatest danger to the Farm Belt is that Mr. Trump might withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement. The U.S. sends about $18 billion a year in farm products to Mexico and $23 billion to Canada, which together account for a third of American farm exports. Since Nafta came into force in 1994, farm exports to Mexico and Canada have more than quadrupled. Soybean exports to Mexico have quintupled.  . . .

Responding to Mr. Trump’s trade threats, Mexico is already seeking alternative commodity suppliers. Last year Mexico reached deals to increase imports of wheat from Argentina and corn from Brazil as a hedge against U.S. withdrawal.

Mr. Trump devoted only a couple of lines to trade in his Nashville speech, and we hope it reflects what Mr. Trump has learned about trade on the job. More likely, it means Mr. Trump still hasn’t resolved the debate among his economic advisers.

One argument Mr. Trump should hear is that a U.S. withdrawal from Nafta would most hurt states like Iowa and Wisconsin that gave him his election victory. That’s especially true if the U.S. imposes additional protectionist measures—such as steel tariffs—that invite retaliation. After the U.S. blocked Mexican trucks from delivering goods across the border in 2009, Mexico slapped tariffs on U.S. table grapes, potatoes, juices, almonds and wines.

Trashing Nafta would be among the great self-inflicted wounds in history. It would also tell other countries that the U.S. can’t be trusted to keep its word on trade, which would make it impossible to cut the bilateral trade deals the President says he wants. This is a strategy for making America weaker.

Many Senators and Congressmen from Agricultural states, such as Iowa, Wisconsin, Wyoming and Montana, which all voted for Trump, have warned the President to go slow on trade and not tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).  These Agricultural states are part of Trump’s base and one of the major reasons he won the Presidency.  In a January 7, 2018 article entitled “Farmers Seek a Tempered Nafta Stance”, the Wall Street Journal further stated:

“When President Donald Trump addresses the U.S. agricultural community Monday, farmers will be looking for signs that a recent push to lobby him in support of the North American Free Trade Agreement has been successful.

That effort, which has included Republican senators from farm states offering charts and graphs illustrating the benefits of the trade deal, has left some hopeful that the administration has softened an earlier tough stance on Nafta. Fueling those hopes has been the president’s refraining from harsh anti-Nafta rhetoric since his last tweet regarding the pact in August.

“We’re doing everything we can to have our voices heard,” said Sen. Deb Fischer (R., Neb.), a rancher and one of several lawmakers who attended a steak lunch with Mr. Trump in December. Sen. Joni Ernst (R., Iowa) brought a chart showing a negative impact of Mr. Trump’s anti-Nafta messages on hog futures. Last week, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R., Kan.) led another group to the White House to reinforce the message.

White House officials say Mr. Trump has continued to meet with “stakeholders on all sides” on the issue. One official familiar with the strategy said that in staying relatively quiet on Nafta, the president is giving U.S. negotiators maximum leverage in the talks.

Farm-state lawmakers say that in their sessions with him, Mr. Trump has been reassuring about Nafta, which has opened Mexican and Canadian markets to duty-free exports of billions of dollars in U.S. products. . . .

But trade, and Nafta in particular, is foremost on the farm community’s mind. The U.S. in 2016 sent $16.4 billion in agricultural and food products to Mexico and $23.4 billion to Canada, according to government figures. Farmers worry that without Nafta, the two U.S. neighbors would have the right to put tariffs on products from the U.S. and could turn to other countries for supplies of soybeans, corn and other farm products.  . . .

“While the president is increasingly listening to the dire concerns of farmers and ag state lawmakers, nobody has a sense of whether he’ll heed their warnings,” said former Democratic Sen. Max Baucus, co-chairman of Farmers for Free Trade, which seeks to preserve existing agreements that lower tariffs on agricultural exports.  . . .

Labor unions and left-leaning consumer groups have supported the tough stance. But business and farm lobbies have continued to lobby the administration by pointing to the benefits Nafta has brought over the last quarter century.

The farm-state lawmakers say they think they have made a difference.

“He said quite bluntly he had thought everyone wanted to get rid of Nafta, and that’s not right,” Ms. Ernst said in an interview. “I can’t speak to what the president intends to do going forward, but I think his perspective has changed a little bit.”

After the December meeting, Mr. Roberts said Mr. Trump reassured him about Nafta’s fate. “Before I could even say, ‘Merry Christmas, Mr. President,’ he looked at me and put his thumb up and said we’re going to be all right on Nafta,” Mr. Roberts said on C-Span last month.  . . .

In his last public comments on Nafta, at a political rally in Florida, Mr. Trump left open the possibility of any outcome. “We’re gonna hopefully keep Nafta,” he said, then added: “But there’s a chance we won’t. And that’s OK.”

On January 7th the Wall Street Journal published an article by Robert Zoellick, a United States Trade Representative (“USTR”) under President George W. Bush, entitled “ Trump Courts Economic Mayhem”.  One point that Zoellick made, which I agree with, is that there are not going to be any new trade agreements under this President because he wants managed trade, not free trade.  Trump promised many new trade agreements with other countries, but it takes two to tango and the other countries have a choice on whether to enter in a new trade agreement with the US.  As Zoellick stated:

“President Trump’s new National Security Strategy argues that the U.S. must compete in a hostile world. Yet the White House also wants to retreat behind trade barriers. The Trump administration has stacked up a pile of trade cases that will come tumbling down early in 2018. More important than any specific case is the signal of a strategy of economic defeatism.

The U.S. is ready to block steel and aluminum imports through a rarely used “national security” rationalization. As an alternative, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had tried negotiating capacity cuts in Chinese production, but Mr. Trump waved him off with a demand for tariffs.

Because most of China’s metal exports already face U.S. tariffs of more than 80%, Mr. Trump’s tactic will likely trigger retaliation from other countries.

Next up are “safeguards” to block imports of solar panels and washing machines. Imposing “safeguards” doesn’t even require a claim of unfairness. On top of this, last year (through Sept. 20) the Commerce Department conducted 65 investigations of alleged low-cost or subsidized imports. That figure is a 16-year high, up 50% from the year before. . . .

No country wants to do a bilateral deal with Mr. Trump now because he demands managed trade, not fair competition. He wants excuses to raise barriers, not rules to boost trade. That’s why Mr. Trump will use his indictment of China’s intellectual-property practices to justify more protectionism, not solve the problems. During the president’s recent trip to China, when Beijing proposed opening some of its financial markets to U.S. companies, the Trump team dismissed this as the old way of doing business. The new way is to block Chinese exports. . . .

The U.S. is abandoning the challenge of setting new trade standards, whether for data, e- commerce or transnational services. America once attracted the world’s talent, but Mr. Trump’s hostility is driving people away. If he pulls the U.S. out of Nafta, even financial markets might recognize that his economic isolationism poses a risk to growth.

True competitors honestly assess their weaknesses, adapt and then grow stronger. Those are the qualities that made America great. This will be the year that trade policy could define Trump’s fearful America.”

Emphasis added.

COULD JANUARY BE THE MONTH WHEN TRUMP’S TRADE POLICY CHANGES DIRECTION

But there is some indication that Trump is listening to his critics.  Trump has told Lighthizer to do no harm in the NAFTA negotiations and to date has not created a trade war with China.  But as indicated below in the articles on Solar Cells, Section 301 and the Section 232 Steel and Aluminum cases, President Trump will soon be at a trade crossroads and no one is sure which way he will jump.

TRUMP TAX BILL ALONG WITH CUTTING REGULATIONS HAS LED TO A US ECONOMIC BOOM

Probably the most important development from the trade point of view in the last few months, however, is the passage of the tax bill.  Many Democratic politicians, economic pundits and millennials predict that the trickle-down economics of lower taxes and less regulations simply will have no beneficial effect on the US economy and the lower and middle classes.  Instead, many economists and millennials advocate the Obama style redistribution, taking from the rich and giving to the poor.

Despite the fact that the Dow Jones average has gone up from 18,259 on the day Trump was elected to over 26,000, these same people strongly believe that Trump simply cannot be responsible for any uptick in the US economy.  The economy is rising because of Obama’s policies, but the facts and many economists are refuting the false statements.  On January 4th, Apple announced that it would pay $38 billion in taxes to the US government to repatriate $246 billion of overseas profits back to the US.  As the Wall Street Journal reported:

“The tech giant said Wednesday it plans $30 billion in capital spending in the U.S. over five years that will create more than 20,000 new jobs. It didn’t specify how much of that spending was already planned, but said the total will include building a new facility that initially will house customer-service operations, and $10 billion toward data centers across the country. Apple also is expanding from $1 billion to $5 billion a fund it established last year for investing in advanced manufacturing in the U.S.

Apple said its one-time tax payment was the result of recent changes to U.S. tax law, under which companies can pay a one-time tax of 15.5% on overseas cash holdings repatriated to the U.S. The company said in November that it had earmarked $36 billion to cover deferred taxes on its $246 billion.”

Meanwhile, as reported in the Wall Street Journal on January 11, 2018, as a result of the tax bill:

“Wal-Mart Stores Inc. would raise starting pay to $11 per hour for all its U.S. employees and hand out one-time bonuses as competition for low-wage workers intensifies and new tax legislation will add billions to the retailer’s profits.

The giant retailer is the largest private employer in the world with 2.3 million employees, including around 1.5 million in the U.S. Its current starting salary in the U.S. is $10 an hour after workers take a training course. The new wage increase will take effect in February.

This is the third U.S.-wide minimum wage increase at the company since 2015 as it works to improve its 4,700 U.S. stores while investing heavily to compete with Amazon.com Inc. online.

The company said the salary change would add $300 million to its annual expenses and it expects to take a $400 million charge in the current quarter for the one-time bonus. The amount of the bonus will vary based on length of service, reaching up to $1,000 for an individual with 20 years of service.”

As Scott S. Powell, a well-known economist of the Discovery Institute, stated on January 12th in Investors Business Daily, “The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 Is Already Delivering”:

“If there is one thing about which most economists understand and agree it’s the law of supply and demand. A derivative of that law is that demand and velocity of transactions tend to diminish as costs increase. While few individuals disagree about this, many in the collective body of economists have become so politicized that when it comes to the  cost  of  variables,  such  as  taxes  and  regulations, that  consensus  all  but vanishes.

Indeed, to listen to many of the pundits and  experts  there  seems  to  be  confusion, denial  and  disagreement  about  how the cost of regulations and taxes actually affect economic  activity. . . .

Recently, Princeton economics professor and former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Blinder stated in the Wall Street Journal that there was little economic evidence  “that  tax  benefits  showered  on  corporations  will  translate mostly  into  higher wages  and vastly  faster economic  growth.”

It’s not at all difficult to grasp the reasons for the markedly different economic performance of the Obama years as compared to what we have experienced in just one year of  the  Trump  administration. Obama’s best year of his two terms delivered a 2.6% growth rate, and he was the only president in some 88 years (since Herbert Hoover) to have failed to deliver economic growth of 3% in any one year he was in office.

In contrast, in the first two full quarters  of  the Trump  administration, the  economy experienced 3.2%  growth.

During his eight years, Obama oversaw an output of some 3,069 regulatory rules and nine new taxes that were part of the Obama Care health law, adding nearly $900 billion in costs to the U.S. economy, and a record 572,000 pages to the Federal Register. In contrast, in his first 11 months, Trump has eliminated some 66 significant rules while adding only three, which equates to a ratio of 22 to 1 — far exceeding the standards of his Executive Order 13771 requiring 2 old rules to be eliminated for every new one added.

The stock market closed out 2017 with a record increase for the eighth year of economic expansion, largely due to deregulation and anticipation of tax cuts.

No sooner had the ink dried on President Trump’s signature on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 on December 22, then more than a dozen companies, such as AT&T, Comcast NBC, Boeing, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and Kansas City Southern, announced special $1,000 bonuses to more than 300,000 employees, and tens of billions of dollars of spending increase on plant, capacity, facilities and workforce development.

2018 has come in like a lion with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act delivering more headline news. Now it’s reported that more than one million American workers at some 60 companies will be receiving pay raises and/or bonuses — undeniably attributable to the reduction of corporate tax rates from 35% to 21%. Wells Fargo, PNC, Bank of America, Fifth Third Bank, and BB&T, to name just a few — all cranked up minimum wages paid to $15/hour and spread the new-found wealth anticipated from tax savings in generous bonuses to more than a hundred thousand employees.

President Trump said from the beginning that lowering tax rates, simplifying the tax code, and making American companies more competitive would be the fuel that propels our economy to new heights.

It’s baffling that political bias can obviate empirical evidence and common sense. One surely doesn’t need   a Ph.D.  in economics to grasp how tax and regulatory costs affect behavior.

By helping companies become more competitive  through  lower  tax  rates, a  simplified tax code, incentivized capital investment, and removal of regulatory barriers, President  Trump  and  the  Republican  Congress  have  actually  delivered, in  the  first  year of  working  together, the  essential  foundation  to  make  America  great  again.”

On January 17, Stephen Moore, another well-known economist, stated in Investors Business Daily in an article entitled “Trump Tax Cut Is Already Working”:

“With the recent announcement of Walmart’s increasing starting wages and Fiat Chrysler’s opening a new plant (with 2,500 jobs) in Michigan, there are now more than a hundred companies that have offered bonuses and benefit hikes to their workers due to the tax cut. An estimated 1 million workers have benefited. This after less than one month.

Liberals disparage all of this as a “publicity stunt.” To hundreds of thousands of families, this is a wonderful stunt, and let’s hope to see a lot more examples of it in the weeks and months ahead.

The stock market has reached multiple new highs since the tax bill took effect on Jan. 1. Workers are more optimistic about the job market than any time in at least a decade.

I helped work with candidate Donald Trump to refine this tax reform plan, and I was ridiculed as too optimistic on how it might help the economy. But already Trump’s economic accomplishments have managed to exceed my lofty expectations. The tax cut isn’t the only factor here, but you’d have to be wearing ideological blinders to not see a link.

We are also learning that taxes influence how politicians behave.  . .

California and New York officials are investigating whether their states can convert income tax payments into tax-deductible charitable contributions to the state government. Good luck with that.

Why would they go to all this trouble if taxes didn’t matter to constituents? . .  . .

that charities are subject to the old adage: If you tax something, you will get less of it.

Well, yes, every politician in America should hold that thought — especially when they contemplate higher taxes on work, profits, savings and so on. But in this case, higher growth from lower tax rates is likely to lead to more income, and thus more, not less, charitable giving — just as we saw in the 1980s when tax rates fell from 70% to 28%.

The timeless economic lesson here is that taxes profoundly influence how and where we live our lives. We tax cigarettes and booze because we want people to consume less of them. There are proposals all over the country to tax soda pop, sugar and carbon emissions so we consume or produce less of them.

So why is it so hard to accept the reality that if we lower taxes on virtuous activities — work, investment, starting a business or saving for retirement — we will get more of these? And why is anyone surprised that this is already starting to happen?

By the way, government officials in China, Mexico, India and much of Europe are angry about America slashing its corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%: That giant sucking sound is capital and jobs from all over the world coming to low-tax America.

Meanwhile, Democrats in Congress — every one of whom voted against the tax bill — keep running around the country saying that their top agenda item, if they win the midterm elections, is to repeal this policy that is already creating jobs. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they started rooting for America rather than against it?”

But even before the tax bill, Maria Bartiromo, the well-known Fox Business consultant, was telling her friends buy US stocks.  As Ms. Bartiromo stated in a December 14, 207 article entitled “Dow 24000 and the Trump Boom”:

“I’m not in the habit of giving stock tips or making market calls. I’ve never claimed to be an investment strategist. But after spending years reporting on business and finance, I was convinced on the night of Nov. 8, 2016, that the conventional market wisdom was way off target. . . .

When I sat down around 10:30 on election night for a Fox News panel discussion, Dow futures were down about 700 points. Markets like certainty; it was understandable that some investors were selling. Mr. Trump seemed to present more uncertainty than Hillary Clinton, who was essentially promising a continuation of the Obama administration. Mr. Trump’s talk about ripping up the North American Free Trade Agreement, for example, created big unknowns and potentially significant risks.

The election night selloff turned out to be a huge buying opportunity. Companies had been sitting on cash—not investing or hiring. Obama Care compliance was a nightmare for many business owners. It made them wonder what other big idea from Washington would haunt them in the future. Mrs. Clinton was likely to increase business costs further, while Mr. Trump had vowed to reduce them. Even in the middle of the election-night market panic, the implications for corporate revenue and earnings growth seemed obvious.

The next morning, with the Trump victory confirmed, I told my colleague Martha MacCallum that I would be “buying the stock market with both hands.” Investors began doing the same.

U.S. markets have added $6 trillion in value since the election, with investors around the world wanting in on America’s new growth story. The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta is now forecasting the third straight quarter of U.S. gross domestic product growth around 3%.

It’s not just an American growth story. For the first time in a long time the world is experiencing synchronized growth, which is why Goldman Sachs and Barclays among others have recently predicted 4% global growth in 2018. The entire world benefits when its largest economy is healthy, and the vibrancy overseas is reinforcing the U.S. resurgence.

As the end of the Trump administration’s first year approaches, it’s a good time to review the progress of the businessman elected on a promise to restore American prosperity.

Year One has been nothing short of excellent from an economic standpoint. Corporate earnings have risen and corporate behavior has changed, measured in greater capital investment.

Business people tell me that a new approach to regulation is a big factor. During President Obama’s final year in office the Federal Register, which contains new and proposed rules and regulations, ran to 95,894 pages, according to a Competitive Enterprise Institute report. This was the highest level in its history and 19% higher than the previous year’s 80,260 pages. The American Action Forum estimates the last administration burdened the economy with 549 million hours of compliance, averaging nearly five hours of paperwork for every full-time employee.

Behind these numbers are countless business owners who have told me they set aside cash for compliance, legal fees and other costs of regulation. That money could have been used to fund projects that strengthened their businesses. President Trump has charted a new course, prioritizing the removal of red tape and rolling back regulations through executive orders. The Federal Register page count is down 32% this year. Mr. Trump says red tape becomes “beautiful” when it is eliminated, and people who manage businesses certainly agree.     . . .

Much has changed this year. Companies from Broadcom to Boeing have announced they’ll move overseas jobs back to the U.S. American companies hold nearly $3 trillion overseas and may soon be able to bring that money home without punitive taxation. Businesses have begun to open up the purse strings, which is why things like commercial airline activity are rising substantially as executives seek new opportunities. Companies are looking to invest in growth. . . .

After reaching Dow 24000, where can markets and the economy go from here? I’m not going to make predictions, but it stands to reason that the economy is better off when federal policy doesn’t discourage people who have a demonstrated ability to work, earn, spend and invest.”

On January 7, 2018, Charles Gasparino, another business reporter for Fox News, stated in the New York Post, “On the economy, Trump Has Been Crazy Like a Fox”:

“With the Dow crossing 25,000, it’s worth pointing out the pitfalls that could reverse some of those gains — and how to avoid them.

One thing we don’t have to worry about is the economic sanity of President Trump.

In fact, it’s safe to say that the current president, for all his temperamental flaws and petty insecurities, makes his tightly wound predecessor, Barack Obama, look like a raving madman when it comes to showing sense on economic growth. Armchair psychiatrists are having a field day diagnosing the president’s mental state from afar, especially after his increasingly bizarre tweeting, but the market says otherwise.

Consider: The United States had one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world — so high that companies (and jobs) were fleeing to places like Ireland. That’s why it was perfectly sane to lower the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent as Trump just did, and presto: Corporations are announcing plans to hire more workers, and the economy, which was expected to slow after seven years of weak growth, is heating up. The markets are predicting that growth with their surge.

Likewise, regulations have been strangling businesses for years while making it difficult for banks to lend to consumers and small business. Trump went out and hired perfectly sane regulators who basically pulled the federal government’s boot off the neck of the business community.

It was described to me as a de facto tax cut by one business owner that gives him leeway to hire more people. A major win for the working class.

And since so many of my fellow journalists are at it, let me do a little psychoanalysis of what an economically insane person might do as president.

An insane president would threaten a significant tax increase immediately upon taking office following a financial crisis, and then eventually impose one on individuals and small businesses still in recovery.

He’d impose job-crushing regulations on these same businesses as unemployment rose. He’d put a cumbersome mandate on businesses that upends the entire health care system just as the economy was finally turning a corner.

A really insane president would blow nearly $1 trillion on a stimulus plan with little planning and direction, wasting much of the money on boondoggles (see: Solyndra) and then laugh at the lack of “shovel ready” jobs created. He’d then try to spread his delusion to the masses, telling them to ignore historically low wage growth, anemic economic growth and the massive amount of people who dropped out of the work force because the stock market rallied, thanks in large part to the Fed printing money instead of his own fiscal policies.

Is Barack Obama crazy? No, but his post-2008 economic policies were. Are all Trump’s tweets sane? No, but smart investors with lots of skin in the game think his policies are perfectly rational, and that’s why the markets are soaring along with the prospect of economic growth.

Can Trump just sit back and act like a clown for the rest of his presidency as the economy and markets lift all boats? No again. Relying on the markets or the economy to disguise abhorrent presidential behavior is a fool’s game. Corrections always occur, and will occur if corporate earnings don’t match the investor enthusiasm built into Dow’s recent rise.

An unexpected burst of inflation that would force the Fed to raise interest rates could hurt both stocks and GDP. Trump might indulge his inner populist and engage in a trade war with China, or repeal NAFTA, both of which would undoubtedly hurt economic growth and stocks.

For all the good things about the business side of the tax reform bill, other parts are more complicated: Small businesses got a sliver of the tax breaks given to corporations; same goes for working-class people who don’t pay much in federal income taxes in the first place. But people who do pay a lot may get crushed when tax season rolls around. Individuals in high-tax states (like New York) could get hammered because the plan barely lowers the top rate and plugs so many deductions.

To pay for their higher taxes, these people could curb their personal spending, meaning less economic growth and possibly lower stock prices.

But none of these hiccups suggest a madman is at the helm of the US economy, which is something to consider the next time you hear Donald Trump is crazy.”

After sending out my newsletter, Harry C. Moser, President of the Reshoring Initiative contacted me and stated:

“Nice piece. I attach our data showing that reshoring and FDI job announcements in 2017 were up over 200% from 2016 to about 240,000, confirming your thesis. “

See his attached powerpoint.  Reshoring & FDI trends 4 slides

WILL 2018 BE THE YEAR OF THE US CHINA TRADE WAR?

As indicated above, the real concern is whether this January and 2018 will be the year a trade war start with China followed by a NAFTA crackup.

In November 2017 I was in Beijing during the Trump visit.  Xi Jinping and Chinese government officials know how important Trump is to their own economy and they gave Trump a “state visit plus”.  Chinese television stated that no US President was given such a welcome since President Nixon.  To see pictures and a video of Trump’s visit to China from Chinese television, which was broadcast all over China, see https://www.dropbox.com/sh/sx2x6qpy7cf77a1/AAAFty0_SwObgVvT-tXbVknVa?dl=0.

During and after the China visit, the US press stated that President Xi played Trump, but the Chinese media at the same time was saying that Trump played President Xi.

But pundits are predicting that 2018 is the year of the US China trade war.  I suspect that although President Trump will issue tariffs in the Section 201 Solar Products and Washing Machines cases, there will be no real trade war so long as the Chinese government opens up its own economy to foreign investment and imports.  Lighthizer is favoring changing Investment guidelines under CFIUS to ban all Chinese investment in areas where China bans US investment.  Essentially reciprocity.

Opening up Chinese barriers to US trade and investment is a strategy every Administration has followed with China be it Bill Clinton, George W. Bush or Barak Obama.  Trump, Wilbur Ross and USTR Lighthizer will keep up extreme pressure on China to open its markets to US exports and investment.  If China refuses, there could well be a trade war.  But such a trade war would be for the right reason.

But if Trump puts up protectionist high tariffs on Solar Cells, Washing Machines, steel, aluminum products, and China imports, that will be when the damage to the economy will happen.

SECTION 301 CASE AGAINST CHINA ON FORCED TECHNOLOGY TRANSFERS

In the attached August 18th Federal Register notice based on an August 14th Presidential Memorandum, Presidential Memorandum for the United States Trade Representative whitehouseg, President Trump pulled the trigger on the Section 301 Intellection property case against China.  The Section 301 investigation could take a year and probably will lead to negotiations with the Chinese government on technology transfer.  If the negotiations fail, the US could take unilateral action, such as increasing tariffs, or pursue a case through the World Trade Organization.  Unilateral actions under Section 301, however, also risk a WTO case against the United States in Geneva.

The United States Trade Representative (“USTR”) held a hearing on October 10th at the International Trade Commission.  During the October 10th hearing, only two US companies appeared to argue that their IP was stolen by Chinese government actions.

Acting Assistant USTR for China Terry McCartin, commenting on the dearth of business witnesses, said some companies had expressed concern “about retaliation or other harm to their businesses in China if they were to speak out in this proceeding.”

On January 18th, it was reported that President Trump was considering a big “fine” as punishment for China’s alleged theft of intellectual property.  In an interview, Trump stated,

“We have a very big intellectual property potential fine going, which is going to come out soon.”

Although Trump did not define what he means by “fine,” Section 301 allows the US to impose retaliatory tariffs on Chinese goods or other trade sanctions until China changes its policies.

Trump further stated:

“We’re talking about big damages. We’re talking about numbers that you haven’t even thought about.”

Trump said he will be discussing this action in his State of the Union address on January 30th.  Trump also recently stated that he hopes there will not be a trade war with China. “I don’t think so, I hope not. But if there is, there is.”

NAFTA PROBABLY WILL NOT BE TERMINATED. IF IT IS, REPUBLICANS, INCLUDING TRUMP, CAN KISS THE ELECTIONS GOODBYE

On August 16th, United States, Canada and Mexico sat down together for the first round of talks to formally reopen NAFTA.  On July 17th, the USTR released its attached “Summary of Objectives for the NAFTA Renegotiation”, USTR NAFTA RENGOTIATION OBJECTIVES.  On January 28th, there will be a major NAFTA negotiation round in Montreal.

But because of the warnings of the impact of a termination on the US economy and his own constituents, President Trump probably will not terminate NAFTA.  Negotiations will be slow, but the three countries eventually will come to a deal.  On January 17, 2018, Politico reported that Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who if very concerned about the impact of a withdrawal from NAFTA on agriculture, is now feeling more optimistic:

“Sen. Chuck Grassley said he took “some comfort” in Trump’s recent remarks at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s convention in which the president refrained from directly threatening to withdraw from NAFTA. . . .

Grassley also warned that if negotiations aren’t completed by a self-imposed March deadline and that deadline is not extended, “then there is no hope of agreement” because of the upcoming Mexican presidential election and the 2018 midterm elections in the U.S. Upon hearing that Trump said he would be “a little bit flexible” with regards to a NAFTA decision based on Mexico’s July election, Grassley said that “ought to give some comfort to the people that he is fairly reasonable on a timetable.”

On January 17th in an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Killing Nafta Would Ruin American Farmers”, Karl Rove, a well-known Republican strategist, predicted that if President Trump withdraws from NAFTA, that would hurt farmers and they would not vote Republican in the midterms or for Trump at reelection time:

“In a Wall Street Journal interview last week, President Trump said if he were to “terminate” the North American Free Trade Agreement, it “would be frankly a positive for our country.”

This bluster could be a negotiating ploy before the next trilateral Nafta talks, set for Jan. 28 in Montreal. If not, Mr. Trump should stop threatening. Withdrawing from Nafta would immediately kill American jobs, while handing Democrats the midterm elections on a silver platter. . . .

Nafta is especially important to American farmers and ranchers. U.S. agricultural exports to Mexico and Canada were $8.9 billion in 1993, before the agreement kicked in. Today, they are $39 billion, accounting for 30% of America’s farm exports.

These exports are critical in many states with key elections this year. In North Dakota, which Mr. Trump won by 36 points, Republicans want to flip the Senate seat held by Democrat Heidi Heitkamp. But the state’s commerce commissioner, Jay Schuler, says North Dakota exports 84% of its crops—worth $3.5 billion—to Mexico and Canada. Withdrawing from Nafta would subject those products to high foreign tariffs in force before the deal took effect, leaving farm families very unhappy.

Republicans also hope to flip Senate seats in Missouri and Indiana, both of which Mr. Trump carried by 19 points. The GOP is fighting to keep governorships in Iowa and Kansas, which the president won by 9 points and 21 points, respectively.

These campaigns will be much more difficult if farm economies are ruined by Nafta termination. Missouri is a major producer of corn, soybeans, beef and turkey; Indiana of corn and soybeans; Iowa of corn, soybeans and pork; and Kansas of wheat, corn and beef. Much of this is exported to Mexico. If the U.S. pulled out of Nafta, Mexican tariffs would snap back to 75% on American chickens, high-fructose corn syrup and potatoes, 45% on turkey, and 25% on beef. . . .

Then there are the car-making states. In the almost quarter-century since Nafta went into effect, the U.S. auto industry has built a hemispheric supply chain to help it compete with European and Asian auto makers.

Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee each have important Senate races, and all but Indiana have governor’s contests, too. In each of those states, at least 9% of the workforce is tied to autos, and in Michigan the figure is 20%. Their exports of cars and auto parts range from $5.9 billion in Tennessee to $26 billion in Michigan.

If Mr. Trump made good on his Nafta threat, he would disrupt the auto industry’s supply chain, making American-made cars more expensive at home and less competitive abroad. Does he really want to blow up these states’ economies—along with those of roughly a dozen other states with auto production (including Missouri, Pennsylvania and West Virginia)?

I haven’t even gotten to the crucial elections in border states like Texas and Arizona, which are important way stations for trade with Mexico and whose economies would face major difficulties if Nafta disappears.

In discussing Nafta, Mr. Trump keeps getting his numbers wrong. Last week he declared that the U.S. has a $71 billion trade deficit with Mexico and “we lose $17 billion with Canada.” Actually, after counting sales of goods and services, the trade deficit with Mexico in 2016 was just $55.6 billion. With Canada, the U.S. ran a $12.5 billion surplus.

Does Mr. Trump ignore the U.S. advantage in services—everything from insurance to banking to logistics—because it undermines his anti-Nafta case? Or, despite coming from the service industry himself, does he think service jobs are less worthy than manufacturing ones? Try defending that proposition to employees at Travelers (a big insurance player in Canada) or FedEx and UPS (which provide logistics and shipping there) or Wal-Mart (Mexico’s largest retailer) or MetLife (which insures 78% of Mexican government employees) or Citibank (which owns Mexico’s second-biggest bank).

Any trade agreement that is two decades old needs updating. Nafta is no exception, especially given the growth of e-commerce and the digital economy. But bad policy is bad politics. Killing Nafta would damage Republicans in agricultural, auto and border states and help elect more Democrats in 2018, strengthening the party’s impeachment efforts. Mr. President, it isn’t worth it.”

THE TRADE WEAKNESS IN DONALD TRUMP’S ECONOMIC POLICY—NO TRADE DEALS TO DATE OR ON THE HORIZON—MAYBE TIME TO RENEGOTIATE THE TPP??

As stated in my last blog post, President Trump dropped the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement, has made noises about dropping the US Korea agreement and may kill the North American Free Trade Agreement (“NAFTA”) with Mexico and Canada.  Even though NAFTA may ultimately be renegotiated, the real problem is that with Trump’s policy of weaponizing trade agreements, no other country will enter into a trade agreement with the US.  As Robert Zoellick, the former USTR under Bush, states above:

“No country wants to do a bilateral deal with Mr. Trump now because he demands managed trade, not fair competition. He wants excuses to raise barriers, not rules to boost trade. That’s why Mr. Trump will use his indictment of China’s intellectual-property practices to justify more protectionism, not solve the problems.”

As stated above, that is a huge problem for US farmers because almost 50% of farm products produced in the US are exported.

During the time when the TPP was being discussed in Congress, its passage was in trouble because many Senators and Congressmen believed the US did not get enough and many Senators and Congressmen wanted a a better deal.

On January 21, Tokyo will be hosting TPP talks for the other 11 countries that have decided to go forward with the TPP.  Maybe President Trump should consider a renegotiation of the TPP.  If the other 11 countries refuse to renegotiate the deal with the US, nothing lost, but the other 11 countries might be very interested if the US indicated possibly joining the TPP but under very strict conditions.  The appeal of the US market is huge to the other countries and that would give President Trump and USTR Lighthizer the chance to show off their negotiating skills.  Moreover, that would be one way for the US and Trump’s constituents, especially in the Agriculture area, to get a trade agreement they can benefit from with a number of other countries.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained

SECTION 201 SOLAR CELLS 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.

The ITC had to 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 reached an affirmative injury determination in the case on September 22, 2017, and then proposed a remedy to the President.

The Commission issued its report to the President on November 13, 2017.  The United States Trade Representative (“USTR”) has held remedy hearings. and President Trump must issue his remedy determination on January 26th.  Many Solar Cells users along with newspaper editorials have urged the President to do nothing because of the bad impact on downstream solar companies, but many commentators expect the President to  issue tariffs against solar cell imports.

President Trump also faces a February 4th deadline to impose trade relief in response to the ITC 201 Affirmative decision on Washing Machines.

SECTION 232 STEEL AND ALUMINUM CASES PICK UP—SECTION 232 STEEL REPORT GOES TO THE PRESIDENT

As mentioned in the last newsletter, the Section 232 Steel and Aluminum cases appeared to stall, but the cases picked up steam again.  On January 11, 2018, the Commerce Department sent the final Section 232 Steel Report to the President.  On that day Commerce announced:

“Today Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross formally submitted to President Donald J. Trump the results of the Department’s investigation into the effect of steel mill product imports on U.S. national security. After this submission, by law, the President has 90 days to decide on any potential action based on the findings of the investigation.”

Commerce will release a public report after the President makes his decision in 90 days.

Across the board tariffs on steel imports would create enormous collateral damage on the many US producers that use steel as a raw material input to produce downstream steel products.  Such a remedy would probably result in the loss of 100s of thousands of US job.

That is the problem with purely protectionist decisions.  They distort the US market and simply transfer the problems of the steel industry to other downstream industries.

NEW SECTION 232 CASE AGAINST URANIUM IMPORTS

On January 16th, Ur-Energy USA Inc. and Energy Fuels Resources Inc. filed a section 232 petition at Commerce claiming that imports of uranium from state-owned and state-subsidized companies in Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan now fulfill 40 percent of U.S. demand, compared to the less than 5 percent satisfied by U.S. production. The Denver-based companies claim that imports from China will grow in the coming years. The companies also argue the volume of imports from Russia will only grow after a decades-old agreement that restricted imports from that country in exchange for suspending anti-dumping duties expires in 2020.  The Petition states:

“The U.S. uranium industry needs immediate relief from imports that have grown dramatically and captured almost 80% of annual U.S. uranium demand. Our country cannot afford to depend on foreign sources — particularly Russia, and those in its sphere of influence, and China — for the element that provides the backbone of our nuclear deterrent, powers the ships and submarines of America’s nuclear Navy, and supplies 20% of the nation’s electricity.”

NO SYMPATHY FOR BOMBARDIER IN BOEING FIGHT.

Recently, a number of reporters have contacted me about the Civil Aircraft from Canada, Bombardier-Boeing, case because the US International Trade Commission (“ITC”) will vote on the injury case on January 26th.  I have told the reporters that there is a 95% chance that the ITC goes affirmative and that Antidumping and Countervailing Duty orders are issued.

As stated in prior newsletters, I have no sympathy for Bombardier because the Quebec Government directly invested $1 billion into Bombardier’s production process, which resulted in a very high CVD rate. The entire purpose of the US CVD law and CVD laws along with WTO Subsidy Agreement and the WTO Civil Aircraft Agreement is that private companies should not have to compete in commercial markets against the Government and that is just what has happened at Bombardier.

Also Bombardier refused to participate and cooperate in the Commerce Department’s antidumping case, which was a fatal error, resulting in a very high Antidumping Rate based on All Facts Available.  Essentially an AFA rate is a penalty for a respondent refusing to cooperate in the Commerce Department’s investigation.  The Canadian Government would have reached an identical decision in the Antidumping Case if a a respondent refused to provide requested information in its questionnaire response.  The EC would take the same position.

WINE FIGHT AGAINST BRITISH COLUMBIA AND CANADA

In the attached complaint filed by the United States against Canada on Wine, WTO WINE COMPLAINT, on October 2, 2017 the Trump administration revived an Obama-era World Trade Organization case against Canadian rules that have allegedly kept U.S. wine off grocery store shelves in British Columbia.

On January 16th, the Australian Government jumped into the case, challenging the Canadian government’s handling of wine sales, accusing Ottawa of practices that appear to discriminate against imported wine.  Australia says that the Canadian government and four provinces – British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia – use taxes, duties and a range of distribution, licensing and sales measures that unfairly affect imported wine. It argues that such practices are in violation of the 1994 General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.  Australian Trade Minister Steven Ciobo stated:

“While it would have been preferable to resolve this issue bilaterally, it is appropriate to commence dispute proceedings given the lack of progress.”

In fact, BC Wine regulations are probably the most protectionist in the World, worse than China requiring the equivalent of an 80% tariff to sell imported wine.  BC protectionist measures on wine simply feed into the Trump argument that NAFTA is not a true free trade agreement.

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

As stated in numerous past newsletters, there is another more productive way to solve the Steel crisis and fix the trade problem and help US companies, including Steel and other companies, adjust to import competition.  This program has a true track record of saving US companies injured by imports.

This was a problem personally approved by President Ronald Reagan.  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 on an individual basis 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.

But as stated in the video below, for companies to succeed they must first give up the mentality of international trade victimhood.

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.

In addition, 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.  To retrain the worker for a new job, the average cost per job is $50,000.  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 TAA for Companies has been cut to the bone.  On August 22, 2017, the U.S. Commerce Department announced $13.3 Million to Boost Competitiveness of U.S. Manufacturers for the TAA for Firms/Companies program.

Are such paltry sums really going to help solve the manufacturing crisis in the Steel and other industries?  Of course not!!

But when the program was originally set up, the budget was much larger at $50 to $100 million.  If the program was funded to its full potential, yes steel companies and other companies could be saved.

To those libertarian conservatives that reject such a program as interference in the market, my response is that this program was personally approved by your icon, President Ronald Reagan.  He understood that there was a price for free trade and avoiding protectionism and that is helping those companies injured by import competition.  But teaching companies how to be competitive is a much bigger bang for the buck than simply retraining workers.  And yes companies can learn and be competitive again in the US and other markets.

NEW RECENT TRADE CASES

ANTIDUMPING AND COUNTERVAILING DUTY CASES

ALUMINUM SHEET-FIRST SELF-INITIATED COMMERCE CASE IN MANY YEARS

On November 28, 2017, the Department of Commerce (Commerce) announced the self-initiation of antidumping duty (AD) and countervailing duty (CVD) investigations of imports of common alloy aluminum sheet from the People’s Republic of China (China).  This is the first time Commerce has self-initiated an antidumping and countervailing duty case in probably over 10 years.

SODIUM GLUCONATE, GLUCONIC ACID, AND DERIVIATIVE PRODUCTS

On November 30, 2017, PMP Fermentation Products, Inc. filed AD and CVD cases against imports of Sodium Gluconate, Gluconic Acid, and Derivative Products from China and France.

PLASTIC DECORATIVE RIBBON

On December 27, 2017, Berwick Offray, LLC filed AD and CVD cases against imports of Plastic Decorative Ribbon from China.

LARGE DIAMETER WELDED PIPE

On January 17, 2018, American Line Pipe Producers Association filed AD and CVD cases against imports of Large Diameter Welded Pipe from China, Canada, Greece, India, Korea and Turkey.

UNIVERSAL TRADE WAR CONTINUES

FOREIGN ANTIDUMPING AND COUNTERVAILING DUTY LAW AND CASES

CHINESE ANTIDUMPING CASES AGAINST US

BUTAN-1 FROM US, TAIWAN AND MALAYSIA

On December 29, 2017, China’s Ministry of Commerce initiated an antidumping investigation against Imports of Butan-1-ol from US, Taiwan and Malaysia.  The four US companies targeted by the case are:

1)  Eastman Chemical Company

2)  The Dow Chemical Company

3)  BASF Corporation

4)  OXEA Corporation

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.2018.01 Team’s newsletter-EN Vol.2018.02 Team’s newsletter-EN Vol.2018.03.

SECTION 337 AND IP CASES

NO NEW RECENT 337 CASES AGAINST CHINA

If anyone has any questions about these cases or about the Trump Trade Crisis, Taxes and Trade, NAFTA, FTAs, , including the impact on agriculture, the impact on downstream industries, the Section 232 cases, the 201 case against Solar Cells, 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–TRADE, PATENTS, SECURITIES, ANTITRUST

Jackson Statue Lafayette Park Monument White House After Snow WaDear Friends,

Over the last week, there have been major developments in the Trade, Patents, Securities and Antitrust areas.  The beat of the US China Trade War goes on.

 

TRADE

SOLAR CELLS

Commerce has referred a number of Chinese exporters and US importers to Customs for evasion of the Antidumping and Countervailing Duty Orders through the Third Country Solar Cells issue.  See attached document.  PUBLIC VERSION Solar Cells Referral to CBP  In fact, we are working with one importer now because Customs is requiring the importer to prove that all the solar cells in the Chinese panels and modules are foreign solar cells and have not been commingled with Chinese solar cells.

STEEL SINKS

Unfortunately, the ITC reached an affirmative injury determination in the Steel Sinks case, ignoring the “but for” standard, the higher causation standard set in the Wood Flooring appeal.  The major reason for the loss in this case, however, was the failure of US importers and Chinese producers/exporters to participate in the case.  They gave up too soon.  Attached are the antidumping and countervailing duty orders that were issued in the case.  SINKS AD ORDER FED REG   SINKS CVD ORDER FED REG

COMMERCE DEPARTMENT RULE CHANGE

Attached is a revision to the Commerce Department’s antidumping and countervailing duty regulations regarding the submission of factual information, including surrogate value information, on the record at the Commerce Department, which was published April 10, 2013 in the Federal Register.  COMMERCE RULES CHANGE ON SURROGATE VALUES  The most important change apparently is the decision of the Commerce to eliminate the opportunity to submit surrogate values after the preliminary determination.

This is a real blow to US importers and Chinese producers/exporters because often the Chinese respondents have no idea what critical value Commerce will use until they see the Commerce Department’s preliminary determination.  If, for example, Commerce uses an aberrational surrogate value for a specific raw material input in the preliminary determination, the US importer or the Chinese company had the opportunity to get a more reasonable value and put it on the record.  No longer.

By the way, Commerce’s argument that Petitioners or respondents could not comment on the submission of the surrogate values after the preliminary determination is bogus.  Generally, Commerce takes another 6 months after the preliminary determination to issue its final determination and during that period both Petitioners and Respondents submit case and rebuttal briefs and attend a hearing at Commerce.

Now the chance to counter an aberrational surrogate value has been eliminated making it even more difficult for US importers and Chinese producers/exporters to get a fair determination at the Commerce Department.

CUSTOMS FRAUD

HONEYGATE– HONEY TRANSSHIPMENT

Attached is an article about the Customs fraud investigations in the transshipment of Chinese honey around US antidumping orders.  Honeygatel  The author is Michael Coursey, at the Kelley, Drye law firm.  Mike and I used to work at the Commerce Department together. Mike represents the US producers in the Honey, Mushrooms and Garlic from China antidumping cases so understand that he is looking at antidumping cases from a domestic producer’s point of view.

The point of the article, however, is that US producers are pushing for Customs investigations against transshipment around antidumping orders, and Customs is taking these investigations very seriously. As Mike states in the attached article as just one example of the Customs investigations listed in the Article:

“ICE’s undercover investigation also led to it to uncover another major player in Honeygate: Jun Yang, a wealthy Chinese businessman and purported pillar of the Houston, Texas community who served on advisory boards to the Mayor of Houston and hobnobbed with the rich and famous. Yang is believed to be involved in efforts to avoid dumping duties through the “new shipper” administrative review process at the Commerce Department. Specifically, Yang made millions as owner of honey and seafood importer National Commodity Corp. by brokering sales to Honey Solutions and others of honey that was adulterated or mislabeled as being from India and Malaysia when it really came from China. Yang has agreed to the prosecutors’ recommendation for a 74-month prison sentence, imposition of a $250,000 fine and restitution of $2.64 million. The judge has not yet ruled on the plea agreement. . . .”

“In addition to Honeygate, there is an increasing trend of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and private citizens fighting customs fraud under the False Claims Act, which allows private citizens to sue on behalf of the United States and share in any recovery if they provide the government with the necessary information and evidence. The first phase of Honeygate marked the DOJ’s first use of Sarbanes-Oxley’s criminal obstruction of justice statute, which includes a 20-year incarceration penalty per offense, in the Alfred L. Wolff prosecutions.

This trend has continued in other customs fraud prosecutions of importers that falsify entry documents and cover-up such fraud in order to avoid paying millions in customs duties.  Much of this area is still evolving, with at least four U.S. federal circuit courts currently split as to whether certain customs fraud and smuggling laws are just civil or also criminal in nature.”

In talking to Mike, he also told me that he is behind the effort to go after the US insurance companies that posted new shipper bonds for Chinese producers/exporters.  Mike estimated that the liability for one US insurance company is close to $200 million.

Attached is also another article about the Honeygate Customs fraud cases.  CANADIAN FOOD WHOLESALER HONEY GATE

PATENTS

HAIER

Attached is a patent complaint that was filed on April 8, 2013 by Guardian Media Technologies against Haier, Desay, Lasonic, Digway, Veehom, Denca and Express Way Ltd. for infringement of certain patents for TVs and DVD players.  HAIER CASE

HUAWEI

Another patent complaint was filed on April 11, 2013 against Huawei by Media Digital.  HUAWEI PATENT MEDIA DIGITAL

337 CASES

A new section 337 case was filed on April 3rd against China on Linear Actuators.  If anyone wants a copy of the complaint, please feel free to contact me.  The notice is below:

Pending Institution

Docket No: 2949

Document Type: 337 Complaint

Filed By: Gorman & Williams

Behalf Of: Okin America Inc. and Dewert Okin GmbH

Date Received: April 3, 2013

Commodity: Linear Actuators

Description: Letter to Lisa R. Barton, Acting Secretary, USITC; requesting

that the Commission conduct an investigation under section 337 of the

Tariff Act of 1930, as amended regarding Certain Linear Actuators. The

proposed respondents are Changzhou Kaidi Electrical Co. Ltd., China and

Kaidi LLC, Easton Rapids, MI.

SECURITIES

FARRIS ARTICLE—DELAWARE COURT DECISION ON ZST DIGITAL NETWORKS

On April 9, 2013, Ted Farris, an international capital markets partner in our New York office, authored an article about Deutsch v. ZST Digital Networks, Inc. (Del. Ch. C.P.A. No. 8014-VCL, March 28, 2013), in which the Delaware Chancery Court authorized seizure of a Chinese company’s assets and a court ordered shareholder buy-out in what should have been a simple books and records case. See attached order.  ZST ACTUAL ORDER  Ted Farris specializes in assisting Chinese companies, acquirers and special committees in considering an exit from U.S. regulatory and reporting requirements in going dark and going private transactions, including delistings from US stock exchanges.  As Ted states in the Article:

 

“Delaware Court Authorizes Seizure of Chinese Company’s Assets in Books and Records Case

China-based companies incorporated and publicly traded in the United States have received another harsh blow from the Delaware Court of Chancery, which appears to be losing patience with failure of Chinese companies to comply with Delaware corporate-law requirements. In Deutsch v. ZST Digital Networks, Inc. (Del. Ch. C.P.A. No. 8014-VCL, March 28, 2013), China-based ZST Digital failed to comply with a December 2012 default judgment ordering it to produce corporate books and records to a U.S. shareholder in Delaware pursuant to Section 220 of the Delaware General Corporation Law. On the shareholder’s motion, Vice Chancellor J. Travis Laster held the company in contempt of court, granted the U.S. shareholder the right to put his shares back to the company at a price based on book value derived from its last SEC financial report, and appointed a receiver for the Chinese company’s assets to enforce the court orders, including payment of the put price. Although, as a practical matter, it may be extremely difficult for the receiver to reach the company’s assets which are all in China, the case unveils a potentially powerful new weapon to enforce U.S. corporate-law standards on Chinese companies that are incorporated in the United States and have shares traded in U.S. markets. The ruling may further encourage China-based companies to consider exiting U.S. securities markets.

Stonewalling a Books and Records Request

ZST Digital is a China-based company that was incorporated in Delaware in 2006. Its business operations are entirely in China where it is engaged in supplying digital and optical equipment to cable equipment operators, including internet-enabled set top boxes, primarily in Henan Province. ZST Digital’s common shares became publicly traded through a 2009 share exchange that was accounted for as a reverse merger. The company filed reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission until August 2012, when it “went dark” by filing a Form 15 with the SEC to terminate its reporting obligations under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. However, its shares continued to trade in the over-the-counter market. The company’s last SEC filing, its Form 10-Q for the quarter ended September 30, 2011, claimed total revenue exceeding $125 million for the nine months ended September 30, 2011. After that filing, ZST Digital ceased filing financial reports with the SEC. In addition, BDO, the company’s auditor resigned in March 2012, and the company claimed it was therefore unable to provide audited financial statements (although it subsequently hired a new auditor). The company’s share price declined from a high of approximately $11.00 in January 2010 to $1.30 per share in April 2013. The stock’s current 52-week range as of April 5, 2013 was from $6.76 to $0.31 per share.

Peter Deutsch, a ZST Digital shareholder who claimed to own more than 3.9 million shares, brought an action in the Delaware Court of Chancery after ZST Digital “went dark” seeking access to the company’s books and records under DGCL Section 220.  Prior to the lawsuit, the company’s counsel at Pillsbury Madison & Sutro LLP had responded by letter offering access to the books and records at the company’s principal office in China, a common response by China-based companies to such a request. Deutsch was not willing to travel to China to see the documents and filed suit demanding that they be produced in Delaware or New York. ZST Digital ultimately failed to respond, and a default judgment was entered on the Section 220 claim in December 2012.

The default judgment ordered ZST Digital to produce books and records in the State of Delaware that included extensive financial disclosures and company strategic plans, including any plans to “go private.” The court rejected the company’s request that Deutsch travel to China to inspect the information. When ZST Digital failed to comply with the terms of the initial order, Deutsch filed a motion against the company for contempt of court, for grant of a put right at the fair value of his shares and for appointment of a receiver. Vice Chancellor Laster granted the plaintiff’s motion for contempt and also granted Deutsch the extraordinary and unprecedented right to put his shares of ZST Digital back to the company at their supposed book value of $8.21 per share (at a time when the shares were trading for only approximately $1.39 per share).

The value of the court-ordered buy back exceeded $30 million and was based on the Company’s book value derived from the balance sheet included in its last-filed Form 10-Q report for the quarter ended September 30, 2011. The court further ordered the appointment of a receiver for the company’s assets for the purpose of enforcing the court’s orders, including the put right, and ordered ZST Digital to pay all costs and expenses of the action, the receivership and enforcement of the court’s orders. ZST Digital has so far failed to respond to the court’s orders.

In his court filings, Plaintiff Deutsch alleged that ZST Digital and other Chinese companies have “gone dark” and ceased filing reports with the SEC in order to lower their stock prices and make a “going private” transaction less expensive. The court-ordered buy-out option requested by Plaintiff Deutsch was based on court-ordered buy-outs in the context of closely held corporations. Plaintiff conceded the unprecedented nature of the “put” remedy in the public company context. The court’s order will effectively prevent ZST Digital from undertaking a “going private” transaction as many other Chinese companies have done over the last several years. (More than 100 Chinese companies have “gone dark” or “gone private” since January 1, 2008.)  Any effort to cash out U.S. shareholders now would undoubtedly face substantial court obstacles given Deutsch’s put right and the receivership order. What impact this will have on the company’s U.S. shareholders remains to be seen.

As ZST Digital has simply failed to respond to the lawsuit, Deutsch’s extraordinary legal victory may have little practical impact so long as the company stays out of the United States and does not attempt a transaction with its U.S. shareholders. ZST Digital has no U.S. assets for the receiver to seize and has so far shown no inclination to pay the put price required by the court’s order. Nevertheless, the case shows that the Delaware courts are willing to use every conceivable remedy against a Chinese company that they perceive as having flouted court orders and ignored the corporate-law rights of U.S. shareholders. The decision leaves both ZST Digital and its shareholders in limbo.

Conclusion

Chinese companies have often attempted to stonewall U.S. shareholders of their Delaware-incorporated entities under DGCL Section 220 by insisting that U.S. shareholders travel to China to inspect books and records. Vice Chancellor Laster made clear that shareholders can insist on such production in the State of Delaware. Further, the list of documents ordered to be produced under DGCL Section 220 was extremely broad and included detailed financial and strategic information even though ZST Digital was no longer required, as a matter of U.S. securities law, to file any reports or disclose information under SEC reporting requirements. In the absence of a confidentiality agreement with a shareholder, this kind of material, nonpublic information could not, as a practical matter, be disclosed to one shareholder (who might freely trade on it) without making that information available to all shareholders through a public announcement.

If Delaware courts can really require public disclosure of financial information by non-reporting companies pursuant to a shareholder demand under DGCL Section 220, this section could in theory be used to defeat a company’s purpose in “going dark” by deregistering under the Exchange Act. Nevertheless, the extreme remedies of granting a put right (in effect a court ordered buy out), appointing a receiver and effectively requiring public disclosure of financial and strategic information by a publicly traded company may reflect the unusual facts of the case. There is no question that ZST Digital’s refusal to participate in the case and its repeated defaults in responding to court orders motivated Vice Chancellor Laster in shaping these extraordinary remedies. If ZST Digital had instead made an appearance, contested the matter and offered some compromise proposal on the information requested, it could almost certainly have obtained a better result for the company that would not have limited its future flexibility in dealing with U.S. shareholders.

Still, the ZST Digital case means that Chinese companies would be well advised to pay more attention to U.S. legal risks given the Delaware courts’ increasingly tough stances in these areas. It is no longer sufficient for U.S.-incorporated Chinese companies to “go dark” and then ignore compliance with basic requirements of U.S. corporate law. The Delaware courts are not likely to give such companies the benefit of the doubt any longer (if they ever did), and other states regularly follow Delaware’s lead in matters of corporate law.

China-based companies with shares trading in U.S. public markets should carefully consider the implications of the ZST Digital case as part of their determination of whether to remain trading in the United States or to consider an exit through a “going private” transaction.”

 

Attached also an article from “Theasset.com” quoting Mr. Farris on this issue.  FARRIS QUOTE

LONGTOP—DELOITTE

On April 8, 2013, a New York Federal District Court Judge tossed Deloitte out of a class action securities lawsuit against Longtop Financial Technologies for lying to investors and exaggerating the size of its profit margins.  In the attached opinion, the Judge determined that the Plaintiff had failed to sufficiently allege that Deloitte violated federal securities laws in signing off on Longtop accounts between June 2009-May 2011. LONGTOP SECURITIES DECISION TOSSING DELOITTE

CITIC AND PUDA COAL

ON April 8, 2013, a class action securities case was brought in the Federal Court in the Southern District of New York against Puda Coal Inc. and CITIC Trust Co., Ltd.  Attached is a copy of the complaint.  PUDA COAL CITIC

The complaint alleges that CITIC is “the largest Chinese private equity fund and merchant bank, which, by means of a transfer of 49% ownership interest and a 51 % pledge as security for a loan, now controls Puda’s sole operating subsidiary and its only source of revenues.”

The complaint further alleges that “this action arises from a fraudulent scheme in which Puda insiders improperly transferred the Company’s only revenue-producing, operating subsidiary to CITIC and then, with the assistance of CITIC, falsely portrayed to investors in Puda that the Company still possessed its operating subsidiary.”

ANTITRUST

VITAMIN C

The Vitamin C case goes on to the next phase.  The first attack is the motion by Plaintiffs to obtain their legal fees from the Chinese defendants.  The legal fees for Plaintiffs could well be in the millions.  See the attached document asking for an extension to file the motion.  VITAMIN C MOTION TO PAY PLAINTIFF’S LEGAL FEES  The Court granted the extension.

This was followed by an April 11, 2013 Renewed Motion by Hebei Welcome and North China Pharmaceutical Group Corp. that the case be dismissed as a matter of law based on state and foreign sovereign compulsion and international comity.  See attached document.  SHORT HEBEI MOTION JUDGMENT  In the motion, the Chinese defendants go into detail as to MOFCOM regulations issued in the late 1990s purportedly giving the Chamber the authority to set up a group to set prices.  The Court has yet to rule on the Renewed Motion.

On April 12, 2013, Plaintiffs filed the attached injunction motion to enjoin the Chinese defendants from operating the cartel and setting the export prices for Vitamin C.  INJUNCTION MOTION  In the Fact Section of the attached motion, Plaintiffs state:

“Evidence admitted at trial established that after Plaintiffs filed their complaint in January 2005, Defendants continued meeting, exchanging information, and reaching agreements with one another. In November 2005, Wang Qiang of Aland wrote that the defendants “should not have any worry” about the lawsuit whether they won or lost, but that they should “do many things in a more hidden and smart way”:

“This act of deciding production or prices based on coordination is a kind of monopoly whatever the reasons. However, I believe we should not have any worry since the Ministry of Commerce is a friend of the court in the lawsuit. If we won the lawsuit, it would be hard for foreigners to make more trouble. Even if we lost the case, government would take the foremost part of responsibility. After all, we need to do many things in a more hidden and smart way.”

. .  . . (“The recent antitrust lawsuit is unprecedented, but we shall not suspend the coordination mechanism of the VC industry in our country”); (noting that “the antitrust investigation was time-consuming” and that “[e]verybody must pay special attention to relevant matters on confidentiality”).

Wang Qi also testified that after the lawsuit was filed, the defendants discussed the need to keep meetings confidential and to be more careful about what was written down.  . . . And Qiao Haili testified that, as a result of the lawsuit, any notes taken by meeting participants “would be torn apart.” . . . .

Eventually, with trial approaching, the meetings to discuss price subsided. At trial, Wang Qi of Aland testified that in the time since his 2008 deposition, his company had stopped meeting with competitors to discuss prices.  . . . He also testified that he would know if such communications were taking place. . . .”

DOJ ANNUAL ANTITRUST REPORT 2013

On April 11, 2013, the Justice Department issued its annual 2013 antitrust report.  In the report, there are two sections of interest to Chinese companies and US importers because it demonstrates how the Justice Department is going after foreign companies for price fixing of export prices using a cartel in the export of products to the United States.  The point is that antitrust cases against foreign cartels are not just aimed at China.

The Criminal Division of the report states as follows:

Liquid Crystal Display Panels

On March 13, 2012, following an eight-week trial, a jury in the Northern District of California returned guilty verdicts against AU Optronics (AUO), a Taiwan manufacturer of liquid crystal display panels, its American subsidiary, AU Optronics America, and the former president and former vice president of AUO for their participation in a conspiracy to fix the price of thin film transistor liquid crystal display panels (TFT-LCD panels).

The jury was unable to return a unanimous verdict as to one of the subordinates charged. It returned not guilty verdicts against two other subordinates.

The guilty verdicts were notable in that the jury determined that the Division had proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the gain derived from the conspirators for sales into the U.S. was at least $500 million. This was the first time that a jury convicted a corporate defendant under the antitrust laws and applied the “twice the pecuniary gain or loss” alternative fine provision of 18 U.S.C. § 3571(d).

On September 20, 2012, AUO was sentenced to pay a $500 million fine and the convicted executives were each sentenced to serve three years in prison. The $500 million fine matches the largest fine ever imposed against a company for violating the U.S. antitrust laws.

The Division successfully retried the third AUO executive, who was found guilty after a three-week trial, on December 18, 2012. Including these trial convictions, the Division’s LCD investigation thus far has resulted in convictions of ten companies and criminal fines totaling $1.39 billion, as well as convictions of 13 executives, and charges against seven additional individuals (one awaiting trial and six who remain fugitives). . .  .

Ongoing Investigations Continue to Produce Results

Auto Parts

The Division is dedicating significant resources to the ongoing automobile parts investigation. To date, this investigation has yielded charges against nine companies and 12 individuals and more than $809 million in criminal fines for participation in conspiracies to fix prices of and rig bids on automobile parts, including safety systems such as seatbelts, airbags, steering wheels, and antilock brake systems, and critical parts such as instrument panel clusters and wire harnesses. Two of the executives charged are Japanese citizens. Each was sentenced in 2012 to serve two years in prison, the longest sentences imposed on foreign nationals voluntarily submitting to U.S. jurisdiction for an antitrust violation. During FY 2012, this investigation also yielded the third-largest criminal antitrust fine ever imposed—a $470 million fine against Yazaki Corporation. The Division continues to cooperate with its counterparts in Japan, Korea, the EC, and Canada, among others, on this investigation.

To date, the following corporate fines have been obtained:

• U.S. v. Yazaki Corporation, $470 million—the third largest criminal fine ever for an antitrust violation

• U.S. v. Furukawa Electric Company Ltd., $200 million

• U.S. v. DENSO Corporation, $78 million

• U.S. v. Fujikura Ltd., $20 million

• U.S. v. Tokai Rika Co., Ltd., $17.7 million

• U.S. v. Autoliv, Inc., $14.5 million

• U.S. v. TRW Deutschland Holding GMBH, $5.7 million

• U.S. v. G.S. Electech, Inc., $2.7 million

• U.S. v. Nippon Seiki Co., Ltd., $1 million

GENERAL LITIGATION PROBLEMS AGAINST CHINESE COMPANIES

In the attached decision, United States v. Pangang Group Company Ltd. and a group of affiliated Pangang companies, a federal judge in California threw out summonses that the Justice Department issued against titanium and steel producer, Pangang Group Co., and related entities in a criminal suit alleging the Chinese state-owned companies stole trade secrets from DuPont Co. by finding that the U.S. government failed to properly serve the defendants.  PANGANG ORDER

Pangang was allegedly aided by former DuPont employee Tze Chao and others in the U.S. who wanted to sell titanium dioxide trade secrets. These include chemical technology company USA Performance Technology and one of its co-owners Walter Liew and his wife Christina.  The Liews were arrested in July 2011 and indicted in August 2011 on charges that they tampered with witnesses, made false statements and attempted to delay the FBI’s effort to uncover the illegal sale of DuPont’s trade secrets to rival manufacturers, including Pangang.

Chao pled guilty in March 2012 to leaking confidential information from documents he reportedly retained after retiring in 2002.  The Liews pled not guilty in April 2012 to charges over their alleged role in the scheme. In February, a magistrate judge ordered Walter Liew to be freed on $2 million bail after 19 months in custody.

If you have any questions about these cases or about these laws in general, please feel free to contact me.

Best regards,

Bill Perry

US CHINA TRADE WAR–SINKS, WOOD FLOORING, SOLAR CELLS, ANTITRUST, PATENT, AND SECURITIES

White House Fountain Flag After Snow Pennsylvania Ave WashingtonDear Friends,

There have been a number of developments in the trade, antitrust, patent, securities and corporate areas.

TRADE

STEEL SINKS

The Commerce Department issued its final attached antidumping and countervailing duty determinations Wednesday, February 20th, in the Steel Sinks case. The CVD rates ranged from 4.8 to 12.26% and the average CVD rate is 8.5%. C-570-984 Sinks from the PRC Final FR Notice   A-570-983 Drawn Sinks AD FR_signed   factsheet-prc-sinks-adcvd-final-20130220

In the antidumping case, the rates ranged from 27 to 39% with the Chinese separate rate companies getting 33%. All other Chinese companies received a rate of 76%.

On Thursday, February 21st, I appeared at the ITC hearing along with three importers to fight the case in the ITC injury investigation. All the Chinese companies have given up at the ITC and many have not even submitted responses to the ITC questionnaire.

I firmly believe that the decision of Chinese companies to give up at the ITC is a big mistake. Despite the fact that my three importers appeared as the only respondents at the Steel Sinks case and despite the advice from many trade attorneys in China and the US that this case is over, the ITC asked the three importers and myself questions for 2 and a half hours. If the case is a slam dunk win for the Petitioners with no reason to fight the case, why would Commissioners bother to ask the importers questions for 2 and a half hours?

The problem with the advice that the ITC injury investigation is a worthless exercise is the Chinese companies and US importers have only one place where they can completely win the case and that is at the ITC for no injury. When Chinese companies and importers give up on the ITC injury investigation, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and because it does not have the evidence, the ITC goes affirmative.

By the way, for those who say it is impossible to win the injury case at the ITC, then why did the US industry lose the injury case about a year ago in the Steel Wire and Steel Wheels from China antidumping cases?

HARDWOOD PLYWOOD

On February 27, 2012, the Commerce Department issued its attached preliminary countervailing duty determination in the Hardwood Plywood Case and nailed a lot of Chinese companies.  factsheet-prc-hdplywood-cvd-prelim-20130227  The mandatory rates range from 0% for some Chinese companies to 27.16% for a number of companies as adverse facts available because they refused to cooperate in the case. All other Chinese companies received 22%, an average of the 0 and the 27.16%.

Thus, if one Chinese company that is chosen as a mandatory company refuses to cooperate with the Commerce Department’s investigation, all the rest of the Chinese companies exporting are nailed if the other Chinese company that cooperates gets 0.  Welcome to fairness Commerce style.

If the Chinese company had not received a 0, but 2% or more, the Chinese separate rate companies would have received that 2% or more.

We can expect an antidumping preliminary determination in the Hardwood Plywood case about 60 days from now.

WOOD FLOORING REVIEW INVESTIGATION

On Monday, I gave a presentation to the US importers on the Wood Flooring review investigation.  Chinese companies that want to receive a low antidumping rate have to file either a certification or an application by the end of March, March 31, 2013, at the Commerce Department.

Attached is a Powerpoint on Commerce Department review investigations. REVIEW INVESTIGATIONS In the Powerpoint I describe review investigations and when a Chinese company should file a separate rate certification as opposed to a separate rate application.

MARCH REVIEW INVESTIGATIONS

Attached is the Federal Register notice giving Chinese companies the right to request an antidumping and countervailing duty review investigation for these products:

Antidumping Duty Proceedings
The People’s Republic of China:
Chloropicrin, A-570-002…………………….. 3/1/12-2/28/13
Circular Welded Austenitic Stainless Pressure 3/1/12-2/28/13
Pipe, A-570-930……………………………
Drill Pipe, A-570-965………………………. 3/1/12-2/28/13
Glycine, A-570-836…………………………. 3/1/12-2/28/13
Sodium Hexametaphosphate, A-570-908………….. 3/1/12-2/28/13
Tissue Paper Products, A-570-894…………….. 3/1/12-2/28/13

Countervailing Duty Proceedings

The People’s Republic of China:
Circular Welded Austenitic Stainless Pressure 1/1/12-12/31/12
Pipe, C-570-931……………………………
Drill Pipe, C-570-966………………………. 1/1/12-12/31/12

MARCH REVIEWS

SOLAR CELLS—THIRD COUNTRY CELLS

Customs is cracking down on US importers with regard to the documents needed to prove that panels and modules from China contain solar cells from third countries.

Commerce told Customs in their instructions:

“Importers of panels/models from ANY country that does not contain subject solar cells produced in the PRC must maintain the Importers Certification in the Department of Commerce (DOC) AD/CVD Order 2153302 dated 06/01/2012 section 3(A). In addition to the Importer Certification, the importer must maintain documentation supporting the certification.”

“If an exporter of panels/models not containing subject solar cells produced in the PRC is located in the PRC, BOTH the importer and the exporter must maintain the Exporter Certification in DOC AD/CVD order 2153302 dated 06/01/2012 section 3(B). In addition to the Exporter Certification, the importer and exporter must maintain documentation supporting the certification.”

In a recent notice of action issued to a US importer, Customs stated the following:

“We note the lack of any documents between the supposed maker of the solar cells and the Chinese manufacturer. All documents lack any traceable and/or verifiable references such as lot numbers, serial numbers, and/or production records. We find the Purchase Order, Invoice, and the Bill of Materials (BOM) to be inadequate support for the certification of third-country made solar cells.”

Customs is going to be very tough in this area so importers have to watch this situation very closely.

PRESIDENT OBAMA’S TRADE AGENDA FOR 2013

On March 1st, USTR released President Obama’s Trade Agenda for 2013, which is attached.  OBAMA TRADE AGENDA USTR PRESS RELEASE  With regards to China, the Agenda states at pages 15-16:

“China

As the complex trade and economic relationship between the United States and China continues to mature and evolve, President Obama is committed to ensuring U.S. trade with China provides American exporters with a level playing field to compete in China’s large and growing market. The United States has welcomed China’s growing leadership role at both the regional and multilateral levels; moving forward, we will seek to enhance cooperation toward common objectives on the basis of our shared responsibility to sustain global economic growth and stability in support of trade-related jobs.”

“In 2013, the United States will address trade objectives with China using all available tools including dialogue, negotiation, and enforcement when appropriate. We will seek to increase transparency and eliminate market access barriers across all sectors. We will advance BIT negotiations with China to secure improved market access, important investor protections, and increased certainty for US investors. We will continue to work to obtain a comprehensive offer from China, commensurate with other Parties’ coverage, to join the WTO Government Procurement Agreement, as this would provide substantial access for U.S. and international exporters to one of the world’s largest government procurement markets. We will closely monitor implementation of China’s bilateral and WTO commitments to respect and protect U.S. intellectual property, and will work with China to improve intellectual property protection and enforcement, recognizing that strong rule of law is essential to encourage and support continued innovation. As stated, we will also continue to hold China accountable for its other WTO commitments through appropriate enforcement efforts that aim to end discriminatory policies wherever they are discovered in China.”

“Our 2013 efforts to promote healthy and equitable trade with China will build on recent progress in several areas. Bilateral engagement in 2012 – through the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade and the Strategic and Economic Dialogue, as well as the Innovation Dialogue and other key working groups and bilateral fora – produced meaningful results on key trade and investment issues, though there is more work to do. In 2013, we will continue to work proactively through bilateral venues to address new and ongoing challenges, as well as seeking timely and thorough implementation of China’s past commitments, including but not limited to: addressing U.S. concerns regarding various measures impeding imports of U.S. goods, such as food and agricultural products, information technology and telecommunications equipment, medical devices, and an array of manufactured products into China; and not discriminating in favor of China’s state-owned enterprises and national champions in providing credit, taxation incentives, and in regulatory policies.”

“To preserve and support American jobs and innovation, the United States will rigorously monitor China’s 2012 commitment to treat intellectual property rights owned or developed in other countries the same as intellectual property rights owned or developed by the Chinese, along with China’s commitments not to interfere with businesses’ technology transfer decisions, and to promptly correct any measures inconsistent with this commitment. In addition, we will seek prompt implementation of China’s 2012 commitments on intellectual property, including the commitments regarding the use of legal software by Chinese enterprises, as well as audits of software on computers used by the Chinese government. We will also closely monitor implementation of China’s February 2012 agreement, which followed the United States’ win in a WTO dispute, to increase market access significantly for U.S. movies being imported and shown in China’s theaters.”

ANTITRUST—VITAMIN C CASE

The Vitamin C antitrust jury trial has started and there are a lot of fireworks.

The Jury trial started on Monday, February 25, with allegations that the price fixing cost US businesses  $54.1 million. The allegation is that China’s largest vitamin C makers voluntarily entered into a series of agreements that limited supply and artificially inflated prices U.S. purchasers paid for Vitamin C between 2002 and March 2006. About 80 percent of vitamin C used in the U.S. is produced in China.

The trial is historic because Chinese companies have never before been forced to defend themselves in US court. A key question jurors are being asked to consider is whether Chinese businesses conspired to set prices in response to market forces driving down the product’s cost, or if the Chinese government, as the companies contend, compelled them to enter into the agreements as part of its regulation of the industry.

Chinese manufacturers began discussing ways to protect vitamin-C prices and limit exports after the cost for the product plummeted to $3 per kilogram by the end of 2001. The companies entered into written pricing agreements during meetings of a vitamin-C subgroup of the government-controlled China Chamber of Commerce for Import & Export of Medicine & Health Products.

The Chinese companies received help from the Chamber in coordinating their pact, but each of the manufacturers voluntarily agreed to enter into the price-fixing agreement. Membership in the Chamber is voluntary, and each of the companies is allowed to set the organization’s rules and elect its officers. Jurors will be shown numerous internal documents demonstrating that the companies acted independently of the Chinese government

Attorneys representing CPG, Weisheng, Hebei Welcome and NCPG described the organization in stark terms, saying the Chamber operated under the government’s thumb and stressed to the jury that it’s not comparable to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or similar trade groups. China considered vitamin C one of its key exports and controlled the industry.

On Tuesday, testimony started at the trial in the Eastern District of New York. Jurors were shown an internal memo from an alleged co-conspirator urging employees to “be smart” and conceal their actions.

On day two of the trial in Brooklyn federal court, the jury was told that China-based Aland (Jiangsu) Nutraceutical Co. Ltd. — which avoided trial by settling last year for $10.5 million — sought to conceal its involvement in the price-fixing ring after it was named in the suit along with other defendants.

“We need to do things in a more hidden and smart way,” the memo said in part; it was written after the lawsuit was filed in January 2005 by a superior of Wang Qi, Aland’s former head of vitamin C marketing and sales.

Qi took notes of numerous meetings between executives of other Chinese companies, including defendants Weisheng Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. and Hebei Welcome Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., where they determined what prices they would quote U.S. businesses, according to documents shown Tuesday during his testimony. The notes described meetings from 2001 through 2005 convened by the China Chamber of Commerce for Import & Export of Medicine & Health Products.

In one email from April 2004, Qi revealed to a customer based in India that members of Commerce’s vitamin C group had agreed to stop production of the nutrient in the coming months — a move that was intended to stabilize prices. Qi said the information was used to build trust with the customer and entice them to purchase more vitamin C.

Under questioning by plaintiffs’ attorney Bill Isaacson of Boies Schiller & Flexner LLP, Qi denied that Aland attempted to mask its dealings with other Chinese vitamin C producers after the lawsuit was filed, saying through a translator that despite what the memo said the company continued to follow its normal procedures. That included submitting monthly reports on China’s vitamin C market, he said.

Qi was asked throughout the day whether he recalled anything from the meetings but said repeatedly he couldn’t remember details about them that weren’t included in the notes he took, noting that some of the meetings took place more than a decade ago.

The notes showed that price controls China’s vitamin C producers agreed on came in response to changes in the market. One meeting was convened on Dec. 26, 2003, in Beijing after purchasing activity for vitamin C slowed down in the weeks leading up to Christmas, which sent the price for the nutrient tumbling. At the meeting, companies pushed for the establishment of a $9 per kilo ceiling floor.

Qi said he threw away the laptop he used to record what happened at the meetings in 2005 — shortly after the lawsuit was filed. He denied that he disposed of the laptop in response to the litigation, and said through a translator that it went “kaput.” Aland at the time didn’t have rules about preserving documents, he said.

On Wednesday, witnesses told a New York federal jury that Chinese trade regulators could impose penalties against vitamin C manufacturers, including blocking them from selling to foreign customers, if they refused to participate in an industry group that allegedly forced them to fix prices and limit supply
.
Two executives of Aland (Jiangsu) Nutraceutical Co. Ltd., which avoided trial by settling last year for $10.5 million, described how China’s Ministry of Commerce, known as MOFCOM, exerted its influence over the industry through a commerce chamber. The four companies on trial claim they can’t be held liable for violating U.S. antitrust laws because the Chinese government compelled them to collude through the group.

On his second day on the witness stand, Aland’s former head of vitamin C sales Wang Qi said the chamber had the authority to impose sanctions on companies that didn’t participate in meetings where competitors discussed pricing, quotas and market conditions.

When an attorney for the defense asked whether Aland was aware the chamber could restrict it’s vitamin C exports, Qi said through a translator “we were very clear about that.”

Qi’s testimony was consistent with statements made by former Aland General Manager Kong Tai, who said China wouldn’t allow manufacturers to export vitamin C if they withdrew from the chamber. Vitamin C export contracts require a seal from the China Chamber of Commerce for Import & Export of Medicine & Health
Products, Tai said.

Tai’s statements were made during a deposition in 2008 that was shown on video to the jury. While vitamin C producers could discuss their views on what the appropriate price for the nutrient should be, ultimate approval of the controls came from the head of the commerce group, he said.

Throughout Qi’s testimony, an attorney for vitamin C purchasers pointed out that internal documents chronicling group meetings held before the suit was filed did not mention MOFCOM or any alleged pressure placed on the companies by the Chinese government.

U.S. purchasers contend the manufacturers acted independent of the Chinese government when it agreed on pricing and other product controls.

On Wednesday, a former executive who worked for both NCPG and Hebei was questioned about how the two companies are connected. Their relation is important because U.S. purchasers claim NCPG, which does not manufacture vitamin C on its own, was involved in the price-fixing conspiracy.

Huang Pinqi, former NCPG general manager and Hebei chairman, was elusive when asked by the plaintiffs’ counsel to describe the companies’ corporate relationship.

PATENTS

Another patent case was filed against Huawei.  Attached is the complaint.  HUAWEI PATENT CASE

SECURITIES AND CORPORATE LAW

PUDA COAL

As a follow up to the article, I sent out last week about the decision by the Delaware Court in In Re Puda Coal, Inc. Stockholders Litigation, C.A. No. 6476-CS (Del. Ch. Feb. 6, 2013), Peter Corne and Robin Weir in Dorsey’s Shanghai office have written an article about the decision. See below:

Delaware Court Ruling: A Cautionary Tale for Independent Directors March 1, 2013

“Independent directors of companies with substantial assets outside the U.S. should carefully consider whether they have the genuine ability to discharge their duties, given a recent ruling from the Delaware Chancery Court.
On February 6, Chancellor Leo Strine, Jr., of the Delaware Court of Chancery refused to dismiss a claim for breach of fiduciary duty against independent directors of Puda Coal Inc., a Delaware corporation whose primary assets and operations are in China. Plaintiffs alleged that the independent directors had failed to detect the unauthorized sale of the company’s assets by its chairman. “

“In In Re Puda Coal, Inc. Stockholders Litigation, C.A. No. 6476-CS (Del. Ch. Feb. 6, 2013) (Bench Ruling), Chancellor Strine bluntly reminded independent directors that they must be capable of fulfilling their fiduciary duty of oversight, no matter where the company’s assets or operations are located. Among his many forthright comments”:

“[I]f you’re going to have a company domiciled for purposes of its relations  with its investors in Delaware and the assets and operations of that company
are situated in China … in order for you to meet your obligation of good  faith, you better have your physical body in China an awful lot. You better
have in place a system of controls to make sure that you know that you  actually own the assets. You better have the language skills to navigate the
environment in which the company is operating. You better have retained  accountants and lawyers who are fit to the task of maintaining a system of
controls over a public company.”

“Independent directors who step into these situations involving essentially  the fiduciary oversight of assets in other parts of the world have a duty not
to be dummy directors … [I]f the assets are in Russia, if they’re in Nigeria,  if they’re in the Middle East, if they’re in China, that you’re not going to
be able to sit in your home in the U.S. and do a conference call four times a  year and discharge your duty of loyalty. That won’t cut it.”

“There’s no such thing as being a dummy director in Delaware, a shill, someone  who just puts themselves up and represents to the investing public that
they’re a monitor.”

Strine stressed that the only reason to have independent directors is because of their independence and their ability to monitor the company’s management. He commented that if the flow of information was in a language that the director doesn’t understand, in a culture where the legal and ethical standards may be different from in the U.S., this could be “very difficult… You better be careful there. You have a duty to think. You can’t just go on this [board] and act like this was an S&L regulated by the federal government in Iowa and you live in Iowa”.

Strine also had a message for independent directors who, like the independent directors of Puda Coal, thought they could avoid responsibility by resigning. He suggested that the act of resignation itself could be a breach of fiduciary duty. “And that’s another reason for sustaining the complaint.”

NEW SEC SECURITIES CASE AGAINST CHINESE COMPANY FOR FRAUD

The SEC has filed a new securities fraud case against a Chinese company, Keyuan Pharmaceuticals.  See the attached complaint.  KEYUAN PHARMACEUTICALS  Like many of the Securities fraud cases against Chinese companies, this case involves a reverse merger through a US shell company.

If you have any questions about these cases or legal areas, please feel free to contact me.

Best regards,

Bill Perry

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