Saturday, May 30, 2020

Food Safety and Inspection Service is Proposing to Amend its Regulations Relating to "Exotic Animals" in the Biological Families Bovidae, Cervidae, and Camelidae

On June 1, 2020, the Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service published in the Federal Register (85 FR 33034) Inspection of Yak and Other Bovidae, Cervidae, and Camelidae Species.

SUMMARY: The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is proposing to amend its regulations to define yak and include it among ``exotic animals'' eligible for voluntary inspection. This proposed change responds to a petition for rulemaking. It would officially allow yak products to be voluntarily inspected and to bear the USDA voluntary mark of inspection, benefitting the yak industry. FSIS is also requesting comments on whether all farmed-raised species in the biological families Bovidae, Cervidae, and Camelidae, if not already subject to mandatory inspection, should be eligible for voluntary inspection, and whether any species in these families should be added to the list of amenable species requiring mandatory inspection. FSIS already requires mandatory inspection for several species of the Family Bovidae (cattle, sheep, and goats). The Agency also provides voluntary inspection to several species of Bovidae not subject to mandatory inspection under the Federal Meat Inspection Act, as well as several species of Cervidae. These species include: Reindeer, elk, deer, antelope, water buffalo, and bison.

DATES: Submit comments on or before July 31, 2020.

Textile FTZ Approved with Quantitative and Time Limitations

On June 1, 2020, the Foreign-Trade Zone Board published in the Federal Register (85 FR 33087) Approval for Production Authority; Foreign-Trade Zone 158, MTD Consumer Group Inc. (Textile Grass-Catcher Bags), Verona, Mississippi. The MTD facility is used for the production of lawn and garden equipment. MTD uses imported components to manufacturer the equipment and pays import duty as high as 9%. Imported lawn and garden equipment has import duty ranging from zero to 2.4%. This situation, where the imported components have higher duty that the finished product, is known as a "tariff inversion" and can work as an incentive to import the finished product rather than manufacturing it in the U.S. In such a case the manufacturer can seek tariff relieve through the use of Foreign-Trade Zone procedures. This would allow them to import the components with no duty, manufacture the equipment in the U.S., and then, when the equipment enters U.S. commerce, pay duty on the value of the foreign components, but at the lower rate applicable to the finished product.

MTD first applied for authorization to use FTZ procedures in 2016. The list of imported components was extensive and included textile fabric grass catchers. The domestic U.S. textile industry has consistently, and almost always successfully, opposed FTZ procedures for imported textile components if there is any domestic production of the component. In January 2017, the FTZ Board authorized FTZ procedures for all but the textile input, which would continue to be subject to 3.8% import duty.

Since then MTD has continued to press to get the textile component authorized for FTZ procedures, with additional filings in 2018 and 2019. The U.S. textile industry continued to oppose, as in this letter from the National Council of Textile Organizations. MTD responded with this letter.

As noted above, the domestic textile industry has been successful in most cases in blocking FTZ filings they consider adverse to their interest. And in the cases where they not been able to stop the petition entirely, they have typically been able to get a cap on the imported quantity that does not exceed the petitioner's historic trade, and a time limitation to allow for a revisiting of the question. In this case The annual quantitative volume of textile grass-catcher bags that MTD may admit into FTZ 158 and avoid the tariff inversion is limited to no more than 2.3 million bags and the authority (with quantitative restriction) shall remain in effect for a period of five years.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Joint Statement on Hong Kong – Canada, US, UK, and Australia

"Hong Kong has flourished as a bastion of freedom. The international community has a significant and longstanding stake in Hong Kong's prosperity and stability. Direct imposition of national security legislation on Hong Kong by the Beijing authorities, rather than through Hong Kong's own institutions as provided for under Article 23 of the Basic Law, would curtail the Hong Kong people's liberties, and in doing so, dramatically erode the autonomy and the system that made it so prosperous.

"China's proposals for a new national security law for Hong Kong lies in direct conflict with its international obligations under the principles of the legally-binding, UN-registered Sino-British Joint Declaration. The proposed law would undermine the One Country, Two Systems framework. It also raises the prospect of prosecution in Hong Kong for political crimes, and undermines existing commitments to protect the rights of Hong Kong people - including those set out in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

"We are also extremely concerned that this action will exacerbate the existing deep divisions in Hong Kong society; the law does nothing to build mutual understanding and foster reconciliation within Hong Kong. Rebuilding trust across Hong Kong society by allowing the people of Hong Kong to enjoy the rights and freedoms they were promised can be the only way back from the tensions and unrest that the territory has seen over the last year.

"The world's focus on a global pandemic requires enhanced trust in governments and international cooperation. Beijing's unprecedented move risks having the opposite effect.

"As Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity are jeopardized by the new imposition, we call on the Government of China to work with the Hong Kong SAR Government and the people of Hong Kong to find a mutually acceptable accommodation that will honor China’s international obligations under the UN-filed Sino-British Joint Declaration."

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Army and Air Force Apparel Contract Awarded

Puerto Rico Apparel Manufacturing Corp., Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, has been awarded a maximum $11,173,437 modification (P00010) exercising the first one-year option period of a one-year base contract (SPE1C1-19-D-1151) with four one-year option periods for various types of coats and trousers. This is a firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract. Location of performance is Puerto Rico, with a Nov. 29, 2021, estimated performance completion date. Using military services are Army and Air Force. Type of appropriation is fiscal 2020 through 2021 defense working capital funds. The contracting activity is the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Awarded May 21, 2020)

ITC Seeking Comments on Probable Economic Effect of Providing Duty-Free Treatment for Imports from Kenya

The U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) is seeking input for a newly initiated investigation into the probable economic effect of providing duty-free treatment for currently dutiable imports from Kenya.

The USITC is seeking input for the investigation from all interested parties and requests that the information focus on the issues for which the USITC is requested to provide information and advice. The USITC will hold a public hearing in connection with the investigation on July 7, 2020. Because COVID-19 mitigation measures are in effect, the public hearing will be held via Go to Meeting.

Generalized System of Preferences: Possible Modifications, 2020 Review

On May 27, 2020, the U.S. International Trade Commission published in the Federal Register (85 FR 31805) Generalized System of Preferences: Possible Modifications, 2020 Review. Specifically information is sought regarding --

(1) Advice as to the probable economic effect on total U.S. imports, on U.S. industries producing like or directly competitive articles, and on U.S. consumers of the elimination of U.S. import duties on the articles in Table A for all beneficiary developing countries under the GSP program. In accordance with sections 503(a)(1)(A), 503(e), and 131(a) of the Trade Act of 1974, as amended (``the 1974 Act'') and pursuant to the authority of the President delegated to the USTR by sections 4(c) and 8(c) and (d) of Executive Order 11846 of March 31, 1975, as amended, and pursuant to section 332(g) of the Tariff Act of 1930, the USTR notified the Commission that the articles identified in Table A of the Annex to the USTR request letter are being considered for designation as eligible articles for purposes of the GSP program. The USTR requested that the Commission provide its advice as to the probable economic effect on total U.S. imports, U.S. industries producing like or directly competitive articles, and on U.S. consumers of the elimination of U.S. import duties on the articles identified in Table A of the Annex to the USTR request letter for all beneficiary developing countries under the GSP program (see Table A below).

 Table A--2020 GSP Annual Review--Petitions Submitted To Add Products to
 the List of Eligible Articles for the Generalized System of Preferences
                                  (GSP)
------------------------------------------------------------------------
             HTS provision                      Brief description
------------------------------------------------------------------------
0603.11.00.............................  Sweetheart, Spray and other
                                          Roses, fresh cut.
0603.11.0010...........................  Sweetheart roses, fresh,
                                          suitable for bouquets or for
                                          ornamental purposes.
0603.11.0030...........................  Spray roses, fresh, suitable
                                          for bouquets or for ornamental
                                          purposes.
0603.11.0060...........................  Roses, fresh, suitable for
                                          bouquets for ornamental
                                          purposes, nesoi.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

(2) Advice as to the probable economic effect of the removal from eligibility for duty-free treatment under the GSP program for these articles from all countries on total U.S. imports, on U.S. industries producing like or directly competitive articles, and on U.S. consumers. The USTR notified the Commission that six articles from all beneficiary developing countries are being considered for removal from eligibility for duty-free treatment under the GSP program. Under authority delegated by the President, pursuant to section 332(g) of the Tariff Act of 1930, with respect to the articles listed in Table B of the Annex to the USTR request letter, the USTR requested that the Commission provide its advice as to the probable economic effect of the removal from eligibility for duty-free treatment under the GSP program for these articles from all beneficiary developing countries on total U.S. imports, on U.S. industries producing like or directly competitive articles, and on U.S. consumers (see Table B below).

Table B--2020 GSP Annual Review--Petitions Submitted To Remove Duty-Free
    Status for a Product on the List of Eligible Articles for the GSP
                                 Program
------------------------------------------------------------------------
             HTS provision                      Brief description
------------------------------------------------------------------------
1006.10.00.............................  Rice in the husk (paddy or
                                          rough).
1006.20.20.............................  Basmati rice, husked.
1006.20.40.............................  Husked (brown) rice, other than
                                          Basmati.
1006.30.10.............................  Rice semi-milled or wholly
                                          milled, whether or not
                                          polished or glazed, parboiled.
1006.30.90.............................  Rice semi-milled or wholly
                                          milled, whether or not
                                          polished or glazed, other than
                                          parboiled.
1006.40.00.............................  Broken rice.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

Manufacturing Extension Partnership Advisory Board Meeting June 3, 2020

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announces that the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) Advisory Board will hold an open meeting on Wednesday, June 3, 2020, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time.

Individuals and representatives of organizations who would like to offer comments and suggestions related to the MEP Advisory Board's business are invited to request a place on the agenda. Approximately 15 minutes will be reserved for public comments at the end of the meeting. Speaking times will be assigned on a first-come, first-served basis. The amount of time per speaker will be determined by the number of requests received, but is likely to be no more than three to five minutes each. Requests must be submitted by email to cheryl.gendron@nist.gov and must be received by May 27, 2020 to be considered. The exact time for public comments will be included in the final agenda that will be posted on the MEP Advisory Board website at http://www.nist.gov/mep/about/advisory-board.cfm. Questions from the public will not be considered during this period. Speakers who wish to expand upon their oral statements, those who wished to speak but could not be accommodated on the agenda or those who are/were unable to attend the meeting are invited to submit written statements electronically by email to cheryl.gendron@nist.gov.

Admittance Instructions: All participants will be attending via webinar. Please contact Ms. Gendron at 301-975-2785 or cheryl.gendron@nist.gov for detailed instructions on how to join the webinar. All requests must be received by 5 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, Thursday, May 28, 2020.