Last week, Timothy Brightbill, partner and co-chair of the International Trade Practice at the Washington, DC-based law firm Wiley Rein LLP, sat down with SMU to discuss the recent court decision sustaining Section 301 tariffs on Chinese goods, as well as the ongoing war in Ukraine.
Earlier this month, the US Court of International Trade upheld Section 301 tariffs of 25% on goods from China. It’s a saga stretching back to 2018 when the US Trade Representative imposed the tariffs under the direction of the Trump administration. Around 3,600 importers challenged the tariffs.
Brightbill lauded this latest decision sustaining the tariffs. “It’s an important ruling, affirming that the president has the power to maintain duties,” he said, adding: “The president has the power to issue Section 301 tariffs to address China’s unfair and distorted trade.”
When asked if the decision would have a negative effect on downstream suppliers, he disagreed.
“It encourages suppliers to move or source from other countries,” Brightbill said. “We don’t want to be dependent on China.” He cited a range of allegedly damaging behavior from China beyond “unfair” imports, including issues such as cyber theft and the use of state-owned enterprises.
Also, he said both the US International Trade Commission and USTR assessed the impact of Section 301 tariffs, and they both found “significant benefits to domestic manufacturing production,” and only small impacts on end-users.
Looking ahead, Brightbill said the US is now reviewing the current duties, as well as additional 301 duties. “It will be important and interesting to see if the Biden administration pursues additional 301 actions against China,” he said.
He added that these could address issues like Chinese circumvention of duties, and third-country subsidies like China’s Belt and Road program.
For the steel industry in particular, he said, “strengthening trade rules against China is very important.”
Another complicated issue on the international stage is Russia’s continued war with Ukraine. Brightbill agreed with the pressure the US has imposed on Russia’s economy through sanctions.
“I think the US needs to bring the maximum pressure to bear on Russia, not just in steel but in other sectors,” he said. “The US is continually reassessing the sanctions, and should continue to look for ways to ratchet the sanctions up until the conflict with Russia is over.”
He emphasized that “we can’t allow the Russian economy to benefit from the sales of products in the US in any form.”
By Ethan Bernard, email@example.com
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