In November 2017, the UK Government took its first legislative steps in preparation for its post-Brexit trade regime.  On November 7, the Trade Bill was introduced for a first reading in the House of Commons.  Separate from the imminent trade deal it must strike with the EU (once progress on Brexit withdrawal negotiations are deemed satisfactory by all parties concerned), the UK is now sketching out its own international trade powers that will allow it to shape its relationships with partners worldwide.

Subsequently, on November 20, the Taxation (Cross-Border Trade) Bill (the “Customs Bill”) was introduced for a first reading in the House of Commons.  The core elements of these two bills are described below. Continue Reading UK Government Prepares for Post-Brexit Trade and Customs Regimes in Two New Bills

On October 17, 2017, the UK Government published legislative proposals that would give it greater powers to intervene in mergers that raise national security considerations or involve national infrastructure.  In the short-term, any transaction involving a party active in the manufacture or design of products for military use or in the “advanced technology” sector could face review on public interest grounds where the target’s UK turnover exceeded £1 million.  In the longer-term, an even wider set of transactions – including bare asset sales and investments in new projects – could be scrutinised on national security grounds and be subject to mandatory notification to the UK Government before being allowed to proceed.

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This Trade Summary provides an overview of WTO dispute settlement decisions and panel activities, and EU decisions and measures on commercial policy, customs policy and external relations, for the third quarter of 2017.

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On October 3, 2017, the EU Parliament, the Council, and the Commission reached an agreement on changes to the EU anti-dumping and anti-subsidy legislation. (See our previous posts on China’s status and the public consultation.) Concurrently, however, the 2013 Commission’s proposal on the Modernization of Trade Defense Instruments (covering inter alia amendments to the “lesser duty rule”) is still undergoing internal negotiations.

Continue Reading EU Reaches Political Agreement On New Anti-Dumping Methodology

As the implementation of China’s first comprehensive cybersecurity law (the “CCL”) progresses, concern is mounting in the international business community regarding the law’s expansive scope, prescriptive requirements and lack of clarity on a range of critical issues. Vocalizing such concern, on September 25, 2017, the United States government asked China to halt its implementation of the CCL and highlighted potential issues with the CCL to members of the World Trade Organization. Since the CCL’s passage, several regulations have been released by the principal agency responsible for its implementation that were intended to implement the provisions of the CCL, but in some cases appear to have further expanded its scope while leaving some critical questions unanswered. In the face of such uncertainties, foreign companies operating in China are advised to familiarize themselves with the requirements of the CCL and its implementation rules and adopt measures to enhance their preparedness for the full implementation of the CCL.

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On September 13, 2017, the European Commission (the “Commission”) announced a proposal to set up a new EU-wide framework for screening foreign direct investment (“FDI”) into the European Union.  The proposal, set out in a draft Regulation, provides for: (i)  new foreign investment review powers for the Commission; (ii) a harmonized approach in screening FDI; (iii) specific criteria to be considered when reviewing investments; and, (iv) a cooperation mechanism between Member States and the Commission.  Continue Reading EU Plans Tighter Vetting of Foreign Investments

On September 20, 2017, President Trump issued Executive Order 13810, imposing additional sanctions against North Korea.  Most notably, the new Executive Order provides for a “secondary sanctions” regime, threatening to impose U.S. sanctions against persons engaging in targeted transactions (whether or not they have any connection to the United States). Continue Reading United States Imposes Secondary Sanctions on Dealings with North Korea

On September 6, 2017, Belgium requested an opinion from the European Court of Justice (“ECJ”) on whether the investment protection rules set out in Chapter Eight of the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (“CETA”) conform to EU Treaties. This request stems from the last-minute deal between Belgium and its regional governments on October 27, 2016, which essentially sought to appease Wallonia’s concerns regarding investor protection and the new Investment Court System (“ICS”) and unblocking domestic opposition to the signing of CETA.

Continue Reading Belgium Requests Opinion on Legality of Investment Court System in CETA

On August 25, 2017, President Trump issued an Executive Order severely restricting transactions in debt and equity of the Government of Venezuela and of state-owned entities; including Petroleos de Venezuela; S.A. (PdVSA). Simultaneously with the Executive Order; OFAC issued a number of general licenses and Frequently Asked Questions relating to the new sanctions. These new actions build on sanctions targeting Venezuelan officials; discussed here; and continue the trend toward targeted “bespoke” sanctions short of full blocking of all transactions with a targeted regime or country.

The new sanctions:

  • Prohibit dealings in existing debt of the Government of Venezuela (and its controlled entities) by U.S. persons or within U.S. jurisdiction; subject to an extensive list of exceptions for specified issuances;
  • Prohibit all dealings by U.S. persons or within U.S. jurisdiction in new debt of the Government of Venezuela with a duration of longer than 30 days and of PdVSA with a duration of longer than 90 days; or new equity of any state-controlled entity;
  • Bar the purchase of securities from the Government of Venezuela within U.S. jurisdiction; other than permitted new debt; and
  • Bar all distributions of profits and earnings within U.S. jurisdiction to the Government of Venezuela by state-owned entities.

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