A guide to import / export restrictions and flexibilities in the United States

The global shipping industry is losing approximately $350 million per week due to the Coronavirus.

Overall, in figures to date, US exports in 2020 have fallen by 9.22% when compared with the same period in 2019, due to the reduction in manpower, the closing of businesses, and the disruption of transportation across the world.

Import / Export restrictions in the United States

The outbreak and spread of Coronavirus has had a significant impact on global trade, altering the flow of goods and services between the United States and the rest of the world.

In early April 2020, the White House Economic Advisor, Peter Navarro, claimed “We are dangerously over-dependent on a global supply chain” – with the United States’ key trade partners including China, Canada and Mexico.  

The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) invited citizens to provide their own thoughts and comments on the Section 301 tariffs, on 20th March 2020.

Section 301 of the Trade Act deals with the authority of the USA to impose trade sanctions on foreign countries who violate the trade agreements or engage in other unlawful activity.

Under Section 301 the USTR had already imposed tariffs on goods from China; excluding ventilators, oxygen masks and other health related products from those tariffs. By opening the tariff to comments from the public and businesses, American citizens were given a say around which other items should be excluded from the tariffs to aid the development of the United States’ combat plan against Coronavirus. These comments can be read here.

Flexibilities in the United States

In response to the public health emergency of the Coronavirus, in March 2020 the United States lifted its ban on the import of rubber medical gloves; previously banned under accusations of forced labour among Malaysian manufacturers. Malaysia is the world’s biggest producer of medical gloves, with the United States the world’s biggest consumer of medical gloves per person.

The surge in demand for personal protective equipment also rendered the federal emergency management and health officials able to preserve other medical equipment which could be integral in the United States’ response to the virus. This led to President Trump ceasing overseas trade on domestically produced personal protective equipment, capping the trade of ventilator products to just North America and Latin America.

This equipment includes:

  • Respirators / Ventilators
  • Surgical masks
  • Surgical gloves

Other flexibilities made available by President Trump in light of the Coronavirus, include the deferment of import payments of up to 90 days, for those importers who are facing significant financial hardship during the virus outbreak. This payment flexibility is available only to payments for goods imported in March and April. Find out more here.

Other facts to be aware of

The United States Customs and Border Protection offices have released various statements warning US citizens against exploitation, including foreign sellers who may charge high prices for counterfeit or ineffective safety equipment. Though borders between the United States and its key trade partners of Canada and Mexico have been closed, President Trump has consistently provided assurance that trade should not be affected.

Though foreign demand is increasing, widespread Coronavirus outbreaks across US slaughterhouses and processing plants have cut national meat output, affecting the exporting availability from the US.

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