Blog/News

Trade War with China Rages On

Sadie Keljikian, Express Trade Capital

Per last week’s announcement, the White House has raised existing tariffs on $200B worth of Chinese imports from 10% to 25% and is now threatening new tariffs of up to 25% on an additional $300B worth of Chinese imports as part of its ongoing trade war with China. The latest list targets a wide variety of goods, including apparel, accessories, food and beverage products, and livestock.   

President Trump seems optimistic about reaching an agreement with Chinese President Xi Jinping and downplays the conflict as a “little squabble…because we’ve been treated very unfairly for many, many decades.” The proposed changes will likely take effect in late June or July unless a trade agreement can be reached before then. Importers should begin preparing to either pay the newly raised tariffs or acquire their goods elsewhere.   

Talk to our team today to learn how ETC can help you plan for the increased costs your business will incur due to the new tariffs and how to protect your business during these uncertain times.   


Managing Director Mark Bienstock Talks Trade War with California Apparel News

Business owners who rely on China’s abundant manufacturing facilities and low production costs may be in for a massive challenge. The ongoing trade war the US government has waged with China may not end by March, meaning more potential tariffs that could disrupt the global economy.

ETC’s own Mark Bienstock and other industry experts spoke to California Apparel News this week about strategies to protect yourself and your business from the effects of this ongoing international conflict.

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Changes to GSP Eligibility

Results of a GSP review have just been published as Presidential Proclamation 9813. This announcement lists changes to select products and countries. The GSP status of these identified articles is effective for goods entering on/after November 1, 2018.

If you would like more information or analysis as to how this impacts your company, please contact our logistics department at logistics@expresstradecapital.com.


Back-to-Back Letters of Credit

Sam Permutt, Express Trade Capital

A back-to-back letter of credit (LC) is a common, but often overlooked, form of trade financing.

In a typical back-to-back LC scenario, an intermediary trading company receives an inbound LC from the buyer’s (applicant’s) bank and, using that first LC as collateral, issues a second, outbound LC in favor of the supplier (beneficiary).

Back-to-Back Letter of Credit graphic

Back-to-back LCs are surprisingly simple to coordinate, as both LCs are nearly identical. The only differences between the two LCs in a back-to-back LC model are the credit amount vs. the unit price and the expiry date/period for presentation/latest shipment dates. The unit price is how much the product will cost the final customer, whereas the credit amount accounts for the wholesale costs. The timing of the two LCs must be staggered to allow time for each party to process and transport the shipment.

The additional layer of security that back-to-back LCs provide comes not only from the presence of two separate, albeit nearly identical LCs, but also from the fact that both LCs are available at the intermediary’s bank. This centralized method of monitoring reduces risk and secures all parties involved in the multi-tiered transaction at hand.

Back-to-back LCs therefore help build trust between buyers and sellers of goods around the world, reduce credit risk, and speed up cash flow. They’re beneficial to the intermediary trading company insofar as the company does not need to disclose to its supplier the details of the ultimate buyer of the goods or even the price at which they were sold.


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Trade War Begins

Sadie Keljikian, Express Trade Capital

President Trump’s promised trade war has begun and it doesn’t look like there will be any winners.

Earlier this year, Trump imposed a series of new import tariffs on goods made outside the US, particularly those made in China. The move has been controversial, largely because each affected country’s respective economy relies heavily on exports. As many economists predicted, however, China, India, the EU and Russia have all fired back.

The president signed the so-called “Trump Tariffs” in March in an attempt to combat “unfair trade practices“ in China and other manufacturing hubs. The newly established tariffs targeted $34 billion in Chinese-produced goods, as well as numerous steel and aluminum goods manufactured abroad.

Shortly after news of the proclamations broke, the EU pledged to place new tariffs on American-made goods in retaliation. Soon after, China announced plans to impose a 25% tariff on US exports, including motor vehicles, soy beans and lobster, which also total at $34 billion in value. Russia followed suit last week and began introducing its own tariffs on US goods, including mining and road building equipment as well as oil/gas industry products. India joined in last week as well, notifying the World Trade Organization that it would raise tariffs on 30 US products including almonds, seafood and chocolate.

Experts continue to debate the precise effects that the trade war will have, but many agree that US traders will struggle to maintain financial stability and accessibility to everyday consumer goods. Although the US is economically stronger than any of the other involved countries, we lack the infrastructure and workforce to supplement the manufacturing resources on which we’ve become dependent in recent decades.

The trade war also drew controversy within the White House and among the Republican party. Several party leaders including House speaker Paul Ryan and former White House economic advisor Gary D. Cohn lobbied against the trade plan. Cohn even resigned shortly after the plan was set in motion, though it is unclear whether he left specifically due to the trade war.

As of now, it is still unclear what the lasting effects of this trade war will be, but sources warn that US consumers and exporters will suffer the most. It may seem counterintuitive, but a combination of the price increases on goods that we continue to import to meet demand and the devastating effect that retaliatory tariffs will likely have on US farmers and manufacturers will probably have a far more detrimental effect than most activity in the ongoing struggle.

Needless to say, it’s difficult to predict precise outcomes this early in the process, but given the buying and manufacturing powers at hand, the international trade industry may change dramatically.


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US Import Tariff Updates

Sadie Keljikian, Express Trade Capital

The following is an update on recent tariff adjustments on steel, aluminum, and Chinese-made products.

Steel and Aluminum Products:

Several Presidential Proclamations signed in March 2018 have collectively implemented Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. The Proclamations primarily serve to adjust imports of aluminum and steel into the United States. The proclamations indicate that covered steel mill and aluminum product imports will be subject to additional tariffs of 25% ad valorem and 10% ad valorem respectively. The following products are covered:

  • Steel mill product HTSUS classifications:
    • 10 through 7216.50 including bars, rods, ingots and angles.
    • 99 through 7301.10 including wire, bars, rods, ingots and sheet piling.
    • 10 rails.
    • 40 through 7302.90 including sleepers and plates.
    • 11 through 7306.90 including pipes, hollow profiles and tubes.
  • Aluminum product HTS classifications:
    • 7601, unwrought aluminum.
    • 7604 including rods, profiles and bars.
    • 7605, aluminum wire.
    • 7606 and 7607 including flat rolled products like foil, sheet, strip and plate.
    • 7608 and 7609 including pipes, tubes, and pipe and tube fittings.
    • 99.51.60 and 7616.99.51.70, forgings and castings.

The newly implemented tariffs will be added to all existing duties and will apply to all countries of origin except for a specific list of exempted countries. Exempted countries include Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, South Korea and European Union members, which include Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

As of now, exemptions are limited through April 30th, 2018, but it is unclear whether they will be extended beyond that date. Extension of the exemptions may lead to a change in the rates applied to other countries and/or restraints on quotas for some, or all countries of origin.

Products from China:

On March 22, 2018, President Trump announced his plan of action to combat China’s unfair trade practices as addressed in the USTR Section 301 investigation of China’s Policies, Acts, and Practices pertaining to Intellectual Property, Innovation and Technology Transfer. As the president’s instructions, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer began the investigation in August of 2017.

President Trump has indicated that action against China will be taken in three stages:

  • Tariffs. Representative Lighthizer will propose a list of products with corresponding tariff increases within 15 days of the announcement on March 22, 2018. The final list will be published after a brief period for notice and comment.
  • WTO dispute settlement. Representative Lighthizer will attempt to settle the dispute in the World Trade Organization, or WTO to address discriminatory practices in China’s technology licensing.
  • Restricted investments. The Secretary of the Treasury will address concerns about investors in China or investments facilitated in China in US industries or technologies deemed important to the US.

On the bright side, President Trump signed an omnibus budget bill into law which aims to end the ongoing cycle of resolutions and government shutdowns. It also renews the General System of Preferences, or GSP, which seeks to ensure fair trade practices among WTO countries. The bill will extend GSP through December 31st, 2020 and retroactively renew it to the previous expiration on December 31st, 2017. Goods that arrive in between will be eligible for a refund, if indicated properly. The GSP will officially go back into effect on April 22, 2018.


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Yantian Shenzhen Terminal Explosion

Sadie Keljikian, Express Trade Capital

An explosion and subsequent fire broke out at the Yantian Container Terminal on the evening of November 10th. The fire was said to be highly destructive, burning at least one container, assumed to be full of lithium batteries, straight through the bottom. Click here for more details from Maritime Bulletin.

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Review: New Logistics Technology

Sadie Keljikian, Express Trade Capital

The shipping and logistics industry is constantly evolving. With the changing landscape of domestic and international trade, consumers’ varied and shifting priorities, and the breakneck pace of new technological developments, it can be difficult to keep up.

Here are some of the current trends in the logistics industry and a few that are on the rise:

  • Supply Chain Responsibility and Transparency

In recent years, consumers have become more mindful of where their goods are sourced and the ethics of the businesses they patronize. Consequently, producers of consumer goods are increasingly scrutinizing every step in the process of creating and selling their goods, from sourcing of raw materials (e.g. mining and farming) to manufacturing, shipping, and final sale to consumers.

US consumers generally have two main concerns regarding the production and sale of purchased goods: environmental effects (i.e. carbon footprint) and fair treatment of workers (mostly non-domestic) who harvest materials and manufacture goods. One solution that addresses both issues is the blockchain, a digital ledger that allows businesses to verify each vendor and manufacturer in their supply chain, regardless of the size and complexity of their networks.

Beyond comprehensive awareness of one’s supply chain, recent advancements in low-emission vehicles are helping the shipping community create more viable long-term solutions to the extremely pollutive nature of traditional ocean, air, and road transportation. When combined with technologies like blockchain, shipping service-consumers will have the option to choose shippers based on criteria beyond the standard twin considerations of speed and cost.

  • Full-Service Warehousing

Warehousing goods is nothing new, but companies like Amazon have changed the nature of warehousing, both in terms of how many warehouses they operate and the way they use the space.

In recent years, Amazon has begun warehousing its goods using increasingly creative methods, both in the US and abroad, allowing them to expedite more shipments and give “Prime” members their money’s worth. They’ve even ramped up expectations and delivery speed in 27 US cities with “Prime Now,” a service that boasts a massive selection of household items, all of which are deliverable within an hour.

Warehousing on this scale reflects the changing face of retail. Vast quantities of commercial space that might have been used for retail ten years ago are now put to more practical use storing goods to be sold online.

  • Digital Monitoring

The world has gone digital and logistics is no exception. Across the board, shippers are taking advantage of cloud computing well beyond the blockchain. The cloud allows shippers to store as much information as necessary in a secure online database that easily adjusts to fluctuating volumes, intuitively organizes transactions and effectively contains costs. The cloud also safeguards data if on-site monitoring devices are damaged.

Earlier this year, some logistics companies began arming their pickers with wearable technology, like Google Glass, to reduce human error and ensure accuracy. While the trend seems to have lost momentum, accuracy-checking technology remains a hot topic in the industry.

  • Robotics

Although it’ll be a long time before robots take over the shipping process, robotic technology to increase logistical efficiency is advancing at an impressive rate. Various degrees of automation have been implemented in the last few years to increase efficiency and accuracy.

As it currently stands, logistical robotic technology is limited to systems that transport goods to the picker. However, industry leaders are eagerly awaiting technological advancements that will allow robots to take over the picking process altogether, wherein they will be able to pick from conventional racks and conveyance equipment and move goods within the warehouse.

  • Autonomous transportation vehicles

On the cutting edge of the logistics industry, vehicles that transport goods without a human operator are a growing trend. Although the technology is still in its infancy, several varieties of unmanned carrier vehicles are in development.

Australia has established a government initiative, known as the Australian Driverless Vehicle Initiative or ADVI, devoted to developing autonomous road vehicles. The technology is still relatively new, but long-haul trucks may be the first to go driver-less, as they are subject to fewer regulations than passenger vehicles.

Perhaps more well-known is the carrier drone, famously developed by both Amazon and several medical supply companies overseas. Drones are particularly exciting because they enable direct deliveries regardless of traffic or road conditions. They are meant to simplify fast delivery to urban areas with heavy road traffic, impoverished areas where roads are inadequate, and war zones to which traditional delivery vehicles might be unable to travel.


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CBP Strengthens Penalties on Wood Packaging Material Violations

Peter Stern, Express Trade Capital

Harmful invasive pests and pathogens are found in the solid wood packing material (SWPM) that accompanies shipments in international trade. Wooden pallets, crating, and dunnage can harbor environmentally and economically harmful species that use the wood as host material, feed upon it, or hitch a ride on it and then threaten domestic timber. Outbreaks of the Asian long-horned beetle, Anoplophora glabripennis (Motschulsky), pine shoot beetle, Tomicus piniperda (L.), and the emerald ash borer, Agrilus planipennis (Fairmaire), have been traced to importations of SWPM. Coping with the risks associated with the introduction of these pests via SWPM has become an increasingly important issue with the expansion of international trade.

For over a dozen years now, regulations have been in place that require treatment and marking of non-exempt wood packing material (WPM) imported into the United States. CBP recently issued a notice that effective November 1, 2017 penalties will be issued for violations of the wood packaging material regulations. The full notice with a link to detailed regulatory requirements can be found at CSMS# 17-000609 – ISSUANCE OF WOOD PACKAGING MATERIAL PENALTY. Importers are encouraged to understand these regulations and monitor compliance.


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Hurricane Irma: CBP Guidance to Trade

Peter Stern, Express Trade Capital

CBP informed the trade community today of anticipated trade interruption due to Hurricane Irma. At this time planning is centered on potential impact to southern Florida ports. CBP issued CSMS 17-000540 yesterday with the same basic instructions as those recently issued in regard to Hurricane Harvey.

As of 3:00 PM September 6, 2017, only the port of Key West is closed (not a cargo-processing port) and CBP expects to keep other ports open but with reduced operational hours, subject to adjustment based on storm impact.

Miami and Tampa Fish and Wildlife port will be closed on Thursday, September 7, and Friday, September 8, and expected to reopen on Monday, September 11, subject to adjustment based on storm impact. Puerto Rico Fish and Wildlife office is closed until further notice. Fish and Wildlife advised that if FWS cargo is diverted, the closest operational FWS office should be contacted for instructions. EPA will monitor pesticide imports at the local level and will work with filers on any shipments. FDA has issued internal guidance, and CBP will share further updates as they become available.

Express Trade Capital is here to help if you have any questions concerning affected cargo.