February 27, 2019

U.S. Trade Commission Extends Public Comment Period for Trade Agreement with U.K.

Extension Granted in Response to Government Shutdown
Holland & Knight Alert
Ronald A. Oleynik | Jonathan M. Epstein | Antonia I. Tzinova | Hwajeong Kim

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), pursuant to Section 131 of the Trade Act of 1974, has requested the U.S. International Trade Commission (Commission) to obtain public comment pertaining to the possibility of a duty-free trade agreement with the United Kingdom covering a range of agricultural products.
  • As a result of the U.S. federal government shutdown that lasted from Dec. 22, 2018, until Jan. 25, 2019, the Commission extended the deadlines associated with the public comment period for approximately 35 days.

The U.S. International Trade Commission (Commission) has announced revised dates for the Commission's rulemaking process pertaining to a potential U.S. trade agreement with the United Kingdom. As part of the effort to ensure U.S trade interests are protected in the wake of the U.K.'s ongoing withdrawal from the European Union (EU), colloquially known as "Brexit," the rulemaking process seeks public comments which would help the Commission assess the probable economic effect of providing duty-free treatment for currently dutiable imports from the U.K., including a range of agricultural products.

The action stems from a Nov. 8, 2018, letter from U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer to the Commission requesting that it study the economic effects of eliminating tariffs on certain imports from the U.K. (as listed in the letter) on U.S. industries, consumers and the U.S. economy, generally. The USTR, under the authority delegated by the President pursuant to Section 131 of the Trade Act of 1974, is authorized to obtain research and advice from the Commission.

The Commission's contemplated report is expected to contain "pre-decisional advice and be subject to the deliberative process privilege." For that purpose, the rulemaking process consists of 1) the filing of request to appear for a public hearing, 2) the filing of prehearing briefs and statements, 3) holding of a public hearing, 4) filing of post-hearing briefs and 5) the issuing of the Commission's final report to USTR. As a result of the lapse in government funding from Dec. 22, 2018, until Jan. 25, 2019, the deadlines for these items were extended accordingly. Upcoming extended dates include:

  • Public Hearing Date: From Jan. 31 to March 6, 2019
  • Post-Hearing Briefs: From Feb. 11 to March 18, 2019
  • Commission Final Report: From May 8 to June 12, 2019

The Commission is expected to issue its report to USTR after considering briefs and statements from the public during the above-described process. The report is expected as part of a broader strategy of the U.S. to solidify a trade partnership with the U.K. following its departure from the EU.

Conclusion

The current rulemaking process is meant to provide U.S. trade policymakers with additional information pertaining to the overall impacts of a trade agreement with the U.K. With the withdrawal of the U.K. from the European Union, it is anticipated that the U.S. will push for aggressive policies toward one of its oldest trading partners. Note that the U.K. is not allowed to enter bilateral trade negotiations with other nations until it leaves the EU. U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May's difficulty in securing approval for her withdrawal deal with the EU might delay Brexit and, consequently, the beginning of negotiations with the U.S.

Holland & Knight's International Trade Group will continue to monitor major developments during the public comment period and broader bilateral trade negotiations.


 

Information contained in this alert is for the general education and knowledge of our readers. It is not designed to be, and should not be used as, the sole source of information when analyzing and resolving a legal problem. Moreover, the laws of each jurisdiction are different and are constantly changing. If you have specific questions regarding a particular fact situation, we urge you to consult competent legal counsel.


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