At the request of the US Senate Finance Committee, the US International Trade Commission (“ITC”) is investigating the trade and economic effects of foreign censorship practices on US businesses under Section 332 of the Trade Act of 1930 (“Section 332”).

A Section 332 investigation is only a fact-finding investigation, and does not itself lead to the imposition of tariffs or other trade restrictive measures.  However, if the ITC concludes at the end of an investigation that certain policies have burdened or restricted US commerce, the ITC’s conclusions could be used as the basis for further trade action, such as under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, which could result in the imposition of restrictions on trade.

The Senate Finance Committee’s request to the ITC arises from a concern that certain acts of censorship by foreign governments constitute a non-tariff trade barrier, and have harmed US businesses. The most well-known of these practices is China’s restriction on internet content, but other countries maintain similar barriers, and the ITC’s investigation covers all such policies.

The ITC’s investigation consists of two parts.  In the first part of this investigation, the ITC gathered evidence to identify various censorship practices around the world.  In the second part of this investigation, the ITC is examining the trade and economic effects of these censorship policies on US businesses.  The ITC is due to deliver the results of the second part of this investigation on July 5, 2022.

In connection with the second part of this investigation, many US businesses have recently received a letter from the ITC, seeking information relevant to this investigation through a questionnaire.  A copy of the questionnaire in .pdf form, as well as additional background information on the investigation, is available here.  The ITC states that a response from all companies receiving this questionnaire, regardless of size, is mandatory.

The deadline for responding to the ITC’s questionnaire is November 3, 2021.  However, particularly given recent delays in the postal system, many companies have only recently received this questionnaire, and may need additional time to respond.  The ITC’s website indicates that parties should contact the project team to request additional time if required.