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The laws and regulations governing international trade are especially complex and can be overwhelming for companies doing business across national borders. The rapidly expanding global marketplace, however, has made compliance more important than ever. Failure to heed these laws can have serious and lasting consequences as dire as criminal charges against the company and individual employees.

The International Trade Law Compass is a blog that offers a steady stream of updates on a broad range of international trade issues, including customs/import compliance, export controls and sanctions, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and cross-border contracts.

Recent Blog Posts

  • Santa Claus Costume Classified as “Fancy Dress” for Import Duty Just in time for the holiday season, the U.S. Court of International Trade (“CIT”) recently held that certain components of a Santa Claus suit were of such quality that they should be subject to apparel duties, not the free duty assessed on costumes and other “festive articles.” The articles at issue were imported by Rubies Costume Co. (“Rubies”) as a complete Santa Clause costume. Included in the “premier” set, which carried a retail price of $100, were red polyester and acrylic pants,... More
  • Trump Nominates Commissioners to the International Trade Commission President Donald Trump announced his nomination of two Commissioners to the United States International Trade Commission (“ITC”) on September 28, 2017. The two nominees are Dennis M. Devaney and Randolph J. Stayin.  If approved, Devaney of Michigan will serve the remainder of a nine-year term expiring June 16, 2023, and Stayin of Virginia will serve the remainder of a nine-year term expiring June 16, 2026. Devaney and Stayin were nominated to fill the Commissioner positions of Commissioners Kieff and Pinkert, who left the... More
  • CIT Upholds CBP Classification of “Optical” Data Modules In a recent decision, the United States Court of International Trade (CIT), upheld the classification of United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) with regard to fiber optic telecommunications modules, finding that the “optical” quality of fiber optics trumped their use for data transmission. ADC argued that, although fiber optic technologies use light (transmitted along glass cables), the technologies, including the modules at issue, are not “optical” instruments.  Further, ADC argued that the classification for optical products should be limited to articles... More
  • U.S. Lifts Sudan Sanctions On October 12, 2017, the United States lifted its general commercial embargo on Sudan. Because Sudan has played a role in international terrorism, the U.S. has maintained a comprehensive embargo against Sudan since 1997. These sanctions were contained in executive orders and the Sudanese Sanctions Regulations (SSR). Following a 16-month diplomatic effort, the United States removed sanctions that had prohibited U.S. persons from engaging in or facilitating most transactions that involved Sudan or its government. U.S. persons may now engage in... More
  • CIT Finds Shoe Importer Was “Grossly Negligent” In Classifying Products In recent decision, the Court of International Trade entered a $1.6 million award against shoe importer, Sterling Footwear, Inc. (“Sterling”), for what it found to be grossly negligent product misclassification.  Granting the U.S. Government’s motion for summary judgment in part, the Court left open the possibility of additional penalties of up to $20.8 million once the liability of Sterling’s owner and a related company  are determined at trial. The Court found that in 337 entries between 2007 and 2009, Sterling had misclassified... More
  • CIT Finds that Home Depot Doorknobs Are Locks In a recent opinion, the Court of International Trade upheld the determination by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) that certain doorknobs imported by home-improvement retailer Home Depot are properly classified as locks and subject to a higher duty than other doorknobs. In essence, the dispute came down to a question of whether a doorknob that locks is (i) a doorknob or (ii) a lock. Doorknobs are classified heading 8302 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) which covers... More
  • Gray Market Distributor Challenges CBP’s Grant of Protection to Duracell In a recent post, we discussed the lawsuit brought by battery behemoth Duracell against a company that it was importing “gray market” versions of its copper-topped products. In that action, Duracell has argued that the warranty that comes with its U.S. batteries is ten times longer than the warranty that comes with the batteries that Duracell sells to electronic manufacturers and which the defendant sought to import.  Accordingly, Duracell argued that this material difference in the warranty should permit it... More
  • U.S. Investigation of Steel Flanges from China and India   On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Commerce began its preliminary phase antidumping and countervailing duty investigations pursuant to the Tariff Act of 1930. The Department of Commerce is looking into whether the imports of stainless steel flanges from China and India, which are alleged to be sold in the U.S. at less than fair value and alleged to be subsidized by the Chinese and Indian governments, are materially injuring the U.S. industry. The U.S. antidumping law imposes special tariffs to counteract... More
  • Second Circuit Limits FCPA Enforcement Tools In its recent decision in United States v. Allen, 16-cr-898, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals held that testimony which is compelled pursuant to laws of foreign jurisdictions violates the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when used as part of a U.S. prosecution.  The ruling may have a far-reaching impact on the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which often rely on evidence obtained by foreign investigators. In US v. Allen, the defendants were accused of... More
  • OFAC Settles Iran Sanctions Claims On Thursday, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) announced a $415,350 settlement agreement with COSL Singapore Ltd. (“COSL”). The parties settled a potential civil liability claim for 55 apparent violation of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations, 31 C.F.R. Part 560 (ITSR), which took place between October 2011 and February 2013. COSL is a Singapore-based subsidiary of a Chinese oil field service company. It has several offshore drilling oil rigs and enters into charter agreements... More