News

China hastens customs clearance for materials to combat the coronavirus epidemic
The China General Administration of Customs (GAC) has announced that it will expedite customs clearance for products such as medicine, disinfectants, protective equipment, and other medical devices to ensure that the supply of materials can satisfy market demands. These items also will be subject to tax reductions or exemptions after customs clearance. Examples of efforts to expedite clearance include the ordering of “green passages” and the maintenance of special service windows to accelerate the clearance of medical materials coming in from overseas.
For more information, see “China Facilitates Customs Clearance for Epidemic Prevention Materials,” January 28, 2020, http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2020-01/28/c_138739282.htm.

Taiwan enforces temporary ban on exports of surgical and N95 face masks
The month-long ban was put into place on January 24, 2020, and will be in place until February 23, 2020. It applies to N95 respirator masks and other surgical face masks made from textiles. The ban is a precautionary measure to ensure that Taiwan has enough medical supplies to combat the spread of the coronavirus. While exports of the masks are generally prohibited, individuals are allowed to exit the island with the masks if they are for personal use.
For more information, see “Taiwan Ups Chinese Visitor Curbs, to Stop Mask Exports,” January 27, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-health-taiwan/taiwan-ups-chinese-visitor-curbs-to-stop-mask-exports-idUSKBN1ZQ1C6, and “Taiwan Bans Export of Surgical, N95 Masks amid China Coronavirus Outbreak,” January 24, 2019, https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/3863692.

United States imposes new export controls on artificial intelligence software
The U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) has imposed licensing requirements on exports of artificial intelligence (AI) software specially designed to automate the analysis of geospatial imagery. The controls became effective on January 6, 2020. Export and re-export licensing requirements apply to all destinations except Canada. The items are classified under the Export Control Classification Number (ECCN) 0D521 of the 0Y521 series. The 0Y521 series is a temporary classification that lasts for one year from the date a final rule is published in the Federal Register, unless the 0Y521 classification is extended and provided that the U.S. Government submit a proposal to the relevant multilateral export control regime (in this case the Wassenaar Arrangement) to obtain multilateral controls over the item. BIS imposed the controls on the AI software because the items may provide a significant military or intelligence advantage to the U.S. or because foreign policy reasons justify the control.
For more information, see “Export Controls Threaten the Future of AI Outposts in China,” January 10, 2020, https://www.wired.com/story/export-controls-threaten-ai-outposts-china/, and “U.S. Government Limits Exports of Artificial Intelligence Software,” January 3, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/usa-artificial-intelligence/us-government-limits-exports-of-artificial-intelligence-software-idUSL1N2980M0.

United States publishes final rules for licensing of firearms exports
The final rules were published on January 23, 2020, to amend Categories I, II, and III of the United States Munitions List in the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). These rules shift responsibility for export control regulation of commercially available firearms, ammunition, and similar products from the U.S. Department of State Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) to the U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS). These products will now be subject to the new 500 and 600 series controls in Category 0 of the Commerce Control List in the Export Administration Regulations (EAR). The final rules will be effective on March 9, 2020.
For more information, see “Final Rules for Oversight of Firearms Exports,” January 23, 2020, https://www.state.gov/proposed-rules-for-oversight-of-firearms-exports-published-for-public-comment/, and “It’s Going to Get a Lot Easier to Export Some Firearms from the US Due to a New Trump Administration Rule,” January 23, 2020, https://www.cnbc.com/2020/01/23/gun-exports-get-easier-due-to-trump-administration-rule-change.html.

United States raises tariffs on derivative steel and aluminum imports
The proclamation will raise tariffs on derivative steel imports by 25% and derivative aluminum imports by 10%. Products affected by these tariffs include nails, staples, parts for vehicles, and similar products. Brazil and South Korea are exempted from the additional tariffs on steel, while Argentina, Australia, Canada, and Mexico are exempted from the additional tariffs on both steel and aluminum. The tariffs went into effect on February 8, 2020.
For more information, see “Trump to Raise Tariffs on Derivative Steel, Aluminum Imports,” January 26, 2020, http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2020-01/26/c_138734654.htm, and “Trump Expands Steel Tariffs, Saying They’ve Fallen Short of Aim,” January 28, 2020, https://www.seattletimes.com/business/trump-expands-steel-tariffs-saying-theyve-fallen-short-of-aim/.

United States signs the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA)
President Trump signed the agreement on January 29, 2020. The agreement is intended to replace the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Changes from the original agreement include a requirement that 75% of vehicle parts be made in one of the three countries by workers earning a minimum of US$16 per hour, protections for tax-free data transfers and source code disclosures, and an allotment of US$600 million to address environmental issues. The USMCA has not yet been passed by the Canadian parliament.
For more information, see “Trump Signs USMCA, ‘Ending the NAFTA Nightmare;’ Key Democrats Not Invited,” January 29, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trade-usmca/trump-signs-usmca-ending-the-nafta-nightmare-key-democrats-not-invited-idUSKBN1ZS0I5.