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USTR Initiates Two Section 301 Investigations Into Vietnam

On Oct. 2, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) announced it has launched two investigations pursuant to Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 regarding Vietnam’s acts, policies, and practices with respect to the importation of illegal timber and currency manipulation. Section 301 is the same provision USTR used to enact additional tariffs on products of China.

According to USTR, Vietnamese customs officials failed to record the origin of timber imported from Cambodia, Cameroon, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This timber may have been illegally harvested or traded and in violation of Vietnam’s domestic laws and international trade rules. Vietnam is one of the world’s largest exporters of wood products; in 2019, Vietnam exported $3.7 billion in wooden furniture products.

Additionally, USTR is investigating whether the government of Vietnam, through the State Bank of Vietnam and by actively intervening in the foreign exchange market, has undervalued its currency – the dong. USTR will consult with the Department of the Treasury in its investigation of Vietnam’s potential currency manipulation.

Should USTR determine that the Vietnamese practices violated Section 301, these investigations may lead to restrictions, such as additional tariffs, on Vietnamese imports. Importers who may be affected by the potential tariffs have until Nov. 12, 2020, to submit comments on the investigations.

Comments may be submitted on whether Vietnam’s currency is undervalued, Vietnam’s actions that may have contributed to the valuation of the dong, the extent to which products imported from Vietnam may have been made from illegal timber, whether Vietnam acted unreasonably, whether U.S. commerce has been burdened by Vietnam’s practices, and what, if any, action should be taken.

Should USTR choose to impose additional duties on Vietnamese merchandise, it will publish a list of potential products for the additional tariffs, and there will be an additional opportunity for public comment. The final list of products in the lumber investigation will likely include wood products such as furniture.

Businesses with questions on the effect of these investigations or requiring assistance with comments to be submitted to USTR by Nov. 12, 2020, should work with experienced counsel.

©2020 Greenberg Traurig, LLP. All rights reserved. National Law Review, Volume X, Number 294



About this Author

Laura Siegel Rabinowitz Corporate Trade Attorney Greenberg Traurig Law Firm

Laura Siegel Rabinowitz counsels domestic and multinational businesses on complex supply chain issues and other complicated challenges associated with trade, advising on mitigation of duty exposure and compliance. Laura has deep experience handling international trade projects for clients, including multinational importers, exporters, manufacturers, retailers, customs brokers, and freight forwarders.

Laura advises clients on mitigating tariffs on Chinese-made products and steel and aluminum and helps clients navigate the maze of regulations,...

Donald Stein, Greenberg Traurig Law Firm, International Trade and Healthcare Litigation Attorney

Donald S. Stein focuses his practice on federal regulatory issues, and in particular U.S. Customs law, trade remedies and trade policy issues. From dealing with imports and the myriad of laws enforced by the U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection ("CBP"), he has also developed experience in practicing before other federal regulatory agencies, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He is also experienced in working with the U.S. International Trade Commission, the U.S. Department of...

Axel Urie international Trade and Customs Attorney Greenberg Traurig Law Firm

Axel Urie is a member of the International Trade and Customs Practice in Greenberg Traurig's Washington, D.C. office. He is experienced in trade remedy and customs matters, including litigation for domestic importers, producers, and foreign exporters.