Update on Trade Agency Operations in Response to COVID-19 Pandemic
25 March 2020
Federal trade regulatory agencies have recently made several announcements with regard to their operations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Effective 21 March through 20 April, the United States is prohibiting non-essential travel from Canada and Mexico at land ports of entry. U.S. Customs and Border Protection states that those exempt from this restriction include individuals engaged in lawful cross-border trade; e.g., lorry drivers supporting the movement of cargo between the United States and Canada or Mexico. CBP adds that the restriction “should not interrupt legitimate trade … or disrupt critical supply chains that ensure food, fuel, medicine, and other critical materials reach individuals on both sides of the border.”
CBP has issued notices concerning COVID-19 effects on duty deferrals, bonds and rulings. CBP is also postponing its customs broker licence exam scheduled for 1 April but has not yet rescheduled it.
The State Department’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls reported on 18 March the following information.
- All electronic licence application systems are in normal operational mode and new licences continue to be accepted, but processing times are likely to be longer than normal due to a reduction in the availability of staffing in multiple organisations to review applications.
- Enrolment and registration requests are still operating via the DECCS system and are being processed as they are submitted.
- Commodity jurisdiction and general correspondence requests continue to be processed but responses may be delayed.
- The Office of Defense Trade Controls Compliance has established a new option for industry to submit disclosures and related information pursuant to ITAR Section 127.12, which should be done via email.
The Food and Drug Administration has reported that its import operations remain functional and operational but has temporarily relieved importers of the requirement to conduct on-site audits for foreign food suppliers. The FDA has also issued emergency use authorisations to facilitate the import, entry and use of disposable filtering facepiece respirators and diagnostic testing kits.
With respect to hearings in Section 337 intellectual property infringement investigations, the U.S. International Trade Commission will order administrative law judges to postpone any hearings scheduled in the next 60 days and will re-evaluate the schedule after 45 days for any additional postponements. All discovery will continue and any essential outside participation by staff will be decided on a case-by-case basis.
With respect to AD and CV injury investigations, the USITC will cancel preliminary phase staff conferences for the next 60 days and issue notices for written submissions instead. The USITC will conduct all votes by notation and there will be no in-person vote for the next 60 days.
Regarding hearings (final AD/CV injury investigations, sunset reviews, and those held under Section 332 and Section 131), the USITC will not hold in-person hearings and instead will invite interested parties to answer written questions with certified written responses.
The U.S. Census Bureau has said that while its call centres and email inboxes remain open to assist the trade community daily, voluntary self-disclosures and data requests should be sent electronically to the Trade Regulations Branch in a password-protected file (for VSDs) or Data User & Trade Outreach Branch (for data requests). Alternatives, VSDs and data requests may be sent to Census’ secure fax at (301) 763-8835.
- North America