On August 9, 2023, the Biden administration issued a much-anticipated Executive Order establishing a new regime to limit certain U.S. investments in key Chinese technology sectors to prevent the financing of Chinese military advancement. The order, once implemented via regulation, will prohibit U.S. persons from investing in, or engaging in certain other transactions with, Chinese companies engaged in specified conduct involving semiconductors and microelectronics, quantum information technologies, and artificial intelligence. The regulations will likely come into force in 2024 after multiple rounds of public comment, including an initial 45-day comment period that is now underway on an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (“ANPRM”) issued by the U.S. Department of the Treasury (“Treasury”).

The regulations will prohibit some investments altogether, while others will be subject only to official notification requirements. Treasury, which will implement and enforce the restrictions, stated that it anticipates exempting “certain transactions, including potentially those in publicly traded instruments and intracompany transfers from U.S. parents to subsidiaries.”Continue Reading Amid Growing Trade Tensions, U.S. Imposes Unprecedented Restrictions on Outbound Investments to China

The members of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) reached a significant milestone at the IPEF Ministerial Meeting in Detroit, Michigan with the substantial conclusion of negotiations on a landmark Supply Chain Agreement. This agreement, involving all 14 IPEF member countries, is aimed at fortifying the resilience, efficiency, and inclusivity of their supply chains through a combination of collaborative activities and individual actions. The agreement lays the foundation for improving supply chain resilience and transparency, as well as enhancing public-private cooperation and business certainty in and among IPEF member states – particularly in sectors deemed “critical” by member governments. Continue Reading Unveiling the Landmark IPEF Supply Chain Agreement

The United States, the European Union, and the United Kingdom are increasingly using trade policy tools as a means to promote certain sustainability goals related to human rights and the environment.  For instance, Steptoe covered in a previous post the trade restrictions proposed at the end of 2021 aimed at illegally deforested products.  More recently, amidst increasing concerns regarding forced labor in certain regions, the EU has proposed legislation which would ban making available within the EU, and exporting from the EU, products made with forced labor – resembling, to some extent, the forced labor ban that is in place in the US. Meanwhile, the UK has adopted a more piecemeal and geographically targeted approach through the adaptation of existing legislation focused on export controls and the prevention of modern slavery.Continue Reading Measures Banning Products Made with Forced Labor: US, EU and UK Approach

On September 19, 2022, the European Commission (“Commission”) presented the Single Market Emergency Instrument (“SMEI”), a crisis management framework designed to secure supply chains of “identified, strategically important goods and services” within the European Union (“EU”) during times of emergency.  The SMEI was introduced as a response to the significant structural issues in the EU’s supply chain of critical goods and services, which were highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic.  Comments on the Proposed Regulation are currently due on December 17, 2022.Continue Reading The EU Single Market Emergency Instrument: Comparing the SMEI Against the U.S. Defense Production Act  

The much anticipated proposal for a Regulation prohibiting products made with forced labor on the EU market was published by the European Commission (“Commission”) on 14 September 2022, one year after the initiative was first announced by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in her 2021 State of the Union speech. The proposed forced labor instrument has the potential to significantly impact the supply chains of not only EU companies, but also of any non-EU company that sells products into the EU. The instrument would apply to any company that exports products from the EU or that sells products on the EU market, irrespective of where those companies are based, to which products they are selling, and to which countries and suppliers they source from.
Continue Reading The Proposed EU Ban on Goods Made With Forced Labor

The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA) supports the existing prohibition on the importation of goods into the United States made with forced labor under Section 307 of the Tariff Act of 1930 (19 U.S.C. § 1307).  Enforcement of the UFLPA began on June 21, 2022.  Companies with supply chains that have links to Xinjiang specifically and China more generally should be concerned about the implications of UFLPA enforcement.

The UFLPA requires U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to apply a presumption that imports of all goods, wares, articles, and merchandise mined, produced, or manufactured wholly or in part in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China (Xinjiang), or by entities on the UFLPA Entity List (described below), are prohibited from entry into the United States under 19 U.S.C. § 1307.  The scope of the UFLPA extends to goods made outside of or shipped through China that include inputs made wholly or in part in Xinjiang.  There is no de minimis exception.  Priority enforcement areas include polysilicon, cotton, and tomatoes.Continue Reading Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, Part II: Enforcement

We are likely witnessing the beginning of the largest disruption to global supply chains in the post-World War II era.  Between the COVID pandemic, the ongoing U.S.-China trade war, severe weather events, cyber attacks, and now the Russian invasion of Ukraine, policymakers around the world are starting to understand that supply chain disruption is the new normal and beginning to prioritize supply chain security and resilience during what is expected to be a period of long-term international instability.

While it is difficult to predict how long Russia’s war against Ukraine will last, many commentators believe that war may be long and protracted.  As long as the conflict lasts, we would expect more sanctions and other measures to be promulgated.  This will prompt supply chain realignments, including greater decoupling from the Russian economy. These measures will start as temporary but could become long-term or even permanent.

In addition, China’s de facto alliance with Russia since the start of the war will likely provide additional momentum for de-coupling with China as well, including the development of regional and plurilateral approaches to onshoring/reshoring and “friend-shoring” supply chains.  These shifts of alignments will have major consequences for the production and movement of goods, ranging from automobiles, semiconductors, and oil and gas, to food and agricultural commodities. Global companies will increasingly be faced with choosing between abiding by Western sanctions and export controls or Chinese and Russian law.Continue Reading Impacts of Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine on Global Supply Chains

In October 2021, President Biden announced the United States’ intention to pursue an “Indo-Pacific Economic Framework” (IPEF) as a means of strengthening U.S. ties in the Asian region.  Substantive discussions on the IPEF have not yet begun, and indeed, there has not yet been an announcement how the negotiations will be conducted or which nations will be involved.  Nevertheless, enough about this proposed framework of agreements has been announced that companies in the region can begin to prepare for the process.  This article will discuss what is known about the IPEF, why the current administration is taking this approach, and how countries in the Asian region may be affected by this new agreement.

By way of background, in February 2016, after years of negotiations, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was signed.  The TPP covered 12 countries, including the United States, and was described as a high-standard “21st Century” trade agreement.  However, one of then-President Trump’s first actions in office was to withdraw the United States from the TPP.  The remaining TPP countries renegotiated the agreement without the United States (essentially removing certain elements of the agreement the United States alone had backed), and ultimately entered into the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).  Since President Biden’s inauguration in January 2021, pressure has been building for the United States to reengage with Asia on economic and commercial matters.  The IPEF is the United States’ current policy response.Continue Reading The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework: How the United States Intends to Re-Engage with Asia on Trade

2022 is shaping up to be a critical year for the Biden Administration regarding U.S. international trade policy.  In 2021, the Biden Administration made headway in resolving some of the challenges with United States’ allies that arose during the last Administration, and trying to build bridges in important regions that had perhaps had been neglected.  But in a number of other critical areas, and arguably in the most significant areas, the Biden Administration made little tangible progress over the past year.  The discussion below offers a look back at the key developments in 2021 with respect to U.S. trade relations with the EU, China, the rest of Asia and North America, and a look ahead at what could come in 2022.
Continue Reading The US International Trade Agenda: A Look Back, A Look Ahead

The German Federal Parliament has adopted a new Act on Corporate Due Diligence Responsibilities in Supply Chains (‘the Supply Chain Act’) on Friday, June 11, 2021, due to enter into effect on January 21, 2023.  By virtue of the Supply Chain Act, companies with a significant presence in Germany, as further explained below, must ensure compliance with human rights and environmental concerns in their business operations and impose equivalent due diligence responsibilities on their suppliers, irrespective of where they are located.

The Supply Chain Act could be of particular interest to the extractive industry, including oil and gas companies, and suppliers of the German automotive industry, but other industries will be affected as well given that the Act applies in principle across all sectors and covers both manufacturing and services, including, in principle, financial services.Continue Reading Germany Introduces New Human Rights and Environmental Responsibilities for Parties in B2B-Relationships