Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in International Trade
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The Trade Expansion Act authorizes the President to adjust imports if he concurs with a determination by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce “that an article is being imported into the United States in such quantities or under such circumstances as to threaten to impair the national security” and to “determine the nature and duration” of the corrective action, 19 U.S.C. 1862(c)(1)(A). In a 2018 report, the Secretary determined that excessive steel imports threatened to impair national security. The President concurred and issued proclamations that imposed a 25 percent tariff on steel imports from several countries.The Court of International Trade rejected arguments that the President’s and Secretary’s finding of a threat to national security and the President’s imposition of a tariff for an indefinite duration conflicted with the statute. The Federal Circuit affirmed. While claims that the President’s actions violated the statutory authority delegated by section 1862 are reviewable, the President cannot be sued directly to challenge his threat determination. The Secretary’s threat determination is a reviewable final action, as a predicate to the President’s authority, but is reviewable only for compliance with the statute and not under the arbitrary and capricious standard. The court rejected an argument that the President failed to satisfy 1862(c)(1)(A)'s “nature and duration” requirement." View "USP Holdings, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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“Red Sun Farms” is the trade name under which various entities do business as “U.S. producers of fresh tomatoes grown in the United States, U.S. importers and resellers of fresh tomatoes from Mexico, and foreign producers and exporters of fresh tomatoes from Mexico.”Red Sun filed suit against the government based on an antidumping duty investigation to determine whether fresh Mexican tomatoes were being imported into the United States and sold at less than fair value. In its motion to dismiss, the government observed, with respect to the five identified entities doing business as “Red Sun Farms,” that “[i]t is unclear whether all of these parties possess standing or can be considered real parties in interest” and reserved its right to raise additional arguments on the subject. In a discovery filing, the government noted the varying singular/plural usage by Red Sun Farms and stated that “‘Plaintiff’ Red Sun Farms actually consists of several companies.”The Federal Circuit reversed the dismissal of the suit. Red Sun challenged the Department of Commerce’s Final Determination resulting from a continued investigation under 19 U.S.C. 1516a(a)(2)(B)(iv); although no final antidumping order had been issued, its claims are not premature. Jurisdiction exists based on 28 U.S.C. 1516a(g)(3)(A)(i) and 1516a(a)(2)(B)(i). View "Red Sun Farms v. United States" on Justia Law

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In 2015, the Federal Circuit affirmed summary judgment invalidating BriarTek’s patent claims, which BriarTek had asserted against DBN in a parallel investigation by the International Trade Commission (ITC). The court upheld the ITC’s imposition of a $6,242,500 civil penalty for DBN’s violation of a consent order, in which it agreed not to import or sell in the U.S. any two-way global satellite communication devices that infringe those claims. The court stated that the invalidation of the asserted claims did not negate DBN’s pre-invalidation violations of the consent order.DBN petitioned the ITC to rescind or modify the civil penalty order. Following a remand, the ITC again denied DBN’s petition. The ITC reassessed the relevant factors for determining civil penalties and concluded that the invalidation of the asserted claims did not change its original assessment, citing: the good or bad faith of the respondent, the injury to the complainant, respondent’s ability to pay, the extent to which respondent has benefited from its violations, the need to vindicate the ITC’s authority; and the public interest. The ITC again noted that the consent order expressly accounted for the subsequent invalidation of the patent claims. The Federal Circuit affirmed the determination as supported by substantial evidence. View "DBN Holding, Inc. v. International Trade Commission" on Justia Law

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Imported goods are generally subject to tariffs, duties, fees, and taxes, such as an excise tax. A “drawback” is a customs transaction involving the refund of payments made upon the importation of a good. The most common drawback occurs when duties that are paid when a good is imported are refunded when the same good is exported. A “substitution drawback,” involves the refund of duties, taxes, or fees that were paid upon importation and refunded when similar goods, normally merchandise classified under the same tariff schedule subheading, are exported. Since 2008, substitution drawback has been allowed for wine where the imported wine and exported wine are of the same color and the price variation does not exceed 50 percent. Substitution drawbacks could result in a near-total refund of both tariffs and excise taxes paid on imported wine where the substituted exported wine was either not subject to excise tax (having been exported from a bonded facility) or had received a complete refund of previously paid excise taxes, a “double drawback.”Treasury and Customs promulgated Rule.1, an interpretation of 19 U.S.C. 1313(v), intended to prevent “double recovery,” limits drawbacks to the amount of taxes paid and not previously refunded. The Federal Circuit affirmed the Trade Court in finding the Rule invalid. The Rule is contrary to the clear intent and structure of the statute. View "National Association of Manufacturers v. Department of the Treasury" on Justia Law

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Under 19 U.S.C. 1862, if the President receives, and agrees with, a finding by the Secretary of Commerce that imports of an article threaten to impair national security, the President shall take action to alleviate the threat. Section 1862(c)(1) specifies a period within which the President is to concur or disagree with the Secretary’s finding and to determine the necessary action and another period within which the President is thereafter to implement the chosen action.In January 2018, the Secretary found that imports of steel threatened to impair national security by causing domestic steel-production capacity to be used less than the level needed for operation of the plants to be profitably sustained. In March 2018, within the period prescribed, the President agreed with that finding and announced a plan (Proclamation 9705) that imposed some tariffs immediately, announced negotiations with specified nations, and stated that the immediate measures might be adjusted as necessary. Within months, the President determined that imports were still too high to meet the Secretary’s identified target and raised the tariff on steel from Turkey, Proclamation 9772.The Trade Court found Proclamation 9772 unlawful. The Federal Circuit reversed. The President did not depart from the Secretary’s finding of a national-security threat; the March 2018 presidential action announced a continuing course of action that could include adjustments. The President’s decision to take one of several possible steps to achieve the goal of increasing utilization of domestic steel plants’ capacity for national security reasons meets the rational-basis standard. View "Transpacific Steel LLC v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA), 21 U.S.C. 321(g) regulates homeopathic drugs. A 1988 FDA guidance document outlined the circumstances in which the FDA intended to exercise its discretion not to enforce the full force of the FDCA against homeopathic drugs. In 2019, the FDA withdrew the guidance document, explaining that the homeopathic drug industry had expanded significantly and it had received numerous reports of “[n]egative health effects from drug products labeled as homeopathic.” The FDA then implemented a “risk-based” enforcement approach and added six of MediNatura’s prescription injectable homeopathic products to an import alert, notifying FDA field staff that the products appeared to violate the FDCA.The D.C. Circuit affirmed the dismissal of MediNatura’s challenges. When a product is detained under an import alert, the importer is given notice and an opportunity to be heard, so the import alert was non-final agency action. The court declined to enjoin the withdrawal of the 1988 guidance, noting the public’s strong interest in the enforcement of the FDCA. Requiring the FDA to keep in place a guidance document that no longer reflects its current enforcement thinking, particularly in light of present public health concerns related to homeopathic drugs, is not in the public interest. View "MediNatura, Inc. v. Food and Drug Administration" on Justia Law

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Amarin markets Vascepa®, a prescription drug consisting of eicosapentaenoic acid in ethyl ester form, synthetically produced from fish oil, intended to reduce triglyceride levels in adult patients with severe hypertriglyceridemia. Vascepa® is the only FDA-approved purified ethyl ester E-EPA product sold in the U.S. Amarin filed a complaint with the International Trade Commission (ITC) under 19 U.S.C. 1337 (Tariff Act), alleging that certain companies were falsely labeling and deceptively advertising their imported synthetically produced omega-3 products as “dietary supplements,” where the products are actually “new drugs” under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) that have not been approved for use in the U.S. Amarin claimed that their importation and sale was an unfair act or unfair method of competition because it violates the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1125(a), and the Tariff Act “based upon" FDCA standards. The FDA urged the Commission not to institute an investigation and to dismiss Amarin’s complaint, arguing that the FDCA prohibits private enforcement actions and precludes any claim that would “require[] the Commission to directly apply, enforce, or interpret the FDCA.” The ITC and Federal Circuit agreed.Amarin’s allegations are based entirely on FDCA violations; such claims are precluded by the FDCA, where the FDA has not yet provided guidance as to whether violations have occurred. Although Amarin claimed violations of the Tariff Act, its claims constituted an attempt to enforce the FDCA. View "Amarin Pharma, Inc. v. International Trade Commission" on Justia Law

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Mid Continent Nail requested that the Department of Commerce initiate a third administrative review of its anti-dumping duty order covering certain steel nails from China. Mid Continent did not serve the request directly on Suntec, a Chinese exporter and producer named in the antidumping order and in the request. When Commerce actually initiated the review about a month after receiving the request, it published a notice in the Federal Register, as provided in 19 U.S.C. 1675(a)(1). Despite that publication, however, Suntec did not participate in the review. Because of a lapse in its relationship with the counsel who had been its representative for years in the steel-nail proceedings, Suntec remained unaware of the review until Commerce announced the final results. The Court of International Trade declined to set aside the results of the review as applied to Suntec. The Federal Circuit affirmed, holding that Suntec had failed to demonstrate that it was substantially prejudiced by the service error as to the request for the review because the Federal Register notice constituted notice to Suntec as a matter of law and fully enabled Suntec to participate in the review. View "Suntec Industries Co., Ltd. v. United States" on Justia Law

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OFAC is authorized to impose civil penalties against any person who exports goods to a third party who it has reason to know intends to send them to Iran. At issue was whether OFAC must also show that the goods actually ended up in Iran. The DC Circuit held that the government need not make that showing and affirmed the district court on that ground. However, the court held that OFAC did not adequately explain parts of its determination that the exporter in this case had reason to know that its shipments would be sent on to Iran. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's order granting the government defendants' motion for summary judgment as to OFAC's determination that Epsilon's 34 shipments to Asra International between August 2008 and March 2011 violated section 560.204 of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations. The court reversed as to OFAC's determination that Epsilon's five shipments to Asra International in 2012 violated the same regulation. The court remanded with instructions. View "Epsilon Electronics v. US Department of Treasury" on Justia Law

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Following a request from ICP, Customs issued a Ruling Letter, classifying ICP’s white sauce as “sauces and preparations therefor” under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) 2103.90.9060. Years later, Customs issued a Notice of Action reclassifying pending and future entries of white sauce as “[b]utter and . . . dairy spreads” under HTSUS 0405.20.3000, which increased the tariff by approximately 2400%. After protesting and paying duties on a single entry, ICP filed a claim in the Court of International Trade, alleging the Notice of Action improperly revoked the Ruling Letter without following the procedures required by 19 U.S.C. 1625(c). Since ICP filed its first action in 2005, the CIT has issued five separate opinions on the matter, two of which were appealed to the Federal Circuit. In awarding ICP attorney fees, the Trade Court found that “The record ... establishe[d] that the goverment position was rooted in a desire to avoid the timely revocation process” by using the Notice of Action, rather than following the procedures of 1625(c)(1). The Federal Circuit affirmed the award under the Equal Access to Justice Act, 28 U.S.C. 2412(d)(1)(A), upholding the Trade Court’s analysis of whether the government’s conduct was “substantially justified.” View "International Custom Products, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law