The lawyers and professionals of our Customs and International Trade Group pride themselves on their ability to work shoulder-to-shoulder with clients on the development of realistic and effective compliance solutions. We have counseled clients across the country and around the world in a wide array of industries, including consumer products, financial services, insurance, private equity, retail, aerospace and automotive, electronics, heavy machinery, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, health care, food and agriculture, and textiles. Our multi-disciplinary, real-world approach ensures that our clients have all the information they need – from legal advice to business resources – to succeed and remain competitive in the international market.
Import Counseling & Compliance
The laws and regulations governing the importation of merchandise into the customs territory of the United States have become increasingly complex, requiring importers to keep abreast of new developments and respond to new opportunities and requirements. Our team of professionals not only assists clients with navigating the countless customs and international trade laws governing the importation of goods, but also works with clients to discover and comply with business opportunities created by existing and newly enacted trade agreements and duty preference programs, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Generalized System of Preferences, and other bilateral and multilateral trade agreements.
Drinker Biddle lawyers, auditors and trade specialists have tremendous depth and experience in compliance issues concerning tariff classification, valuation, origin determinations and marking, duty drawback, Foreign Trade Zones, and recordkeeping. We routinely represent companies before United States Customs and Border Protection in Focused Assessment audits, prior disclosures and verifications, enforcement proceedings, requests for binding rulings and internal advice, and other compliance matters. Our lawyers also have a wealth of experience in helping companies craft language within distribution and supply agreements, buying agency contracts, and licensing agreements in order to avoid or identify potential minefields associated with the valuation of imported merchandise or qualification for duty preferences.
In today’s global trade environment, the development and implementation of an effective system of internal controls is essential to maintaining compliance with the United States customs laws, ensuring maximum duty savings while avoiding unnecessary government scrutiny. Drinker Biddle’s team of trade professionals routinely works with clients to establish an effective and business-friendly system of internal controls, taking advantage of existing internal systems, processes and automation to streamline and integrate import compliance procedures within a company’s business practices. We also have extensive experience advising clients on Customs’ new self-assessment compliance initiative and the Importer Self-Assessment program, as well as preparing clients for participation and assisting in the application process.
Economic Sanctions and Export Counseling & Compliance
U.S. economic sanctions impact virtually every industry and transaction that passes across U.S. borders or through the U.S. financial system. From the banking and insurance sectors to cryptocurrencies and blockchain technologies, financial institutions and investors face a host of compliance risks and an ever-changing landscape of regulatory requirements that can impact the value and ultimate success of their transactions and investments. The laws and regulations that govern the export of articles, software, technology, technical data and services from the United States can be equally daunting. They involve several different U.S. government agencies with overlapping responsibilities and slightly different missions. Drinker Biddle’s Customs and International Trade Practice has the experience and know-how to guide our clients through this maze of regulations.
Our team works with clients to identify not only the areas of a business that are involved in financial transactions and exports of physical goods or products, but also those that provide technical data, software and services internationally and to foreign persons in the United States. We then seek to minimize the risks inherent in these activities through the development and implementation of processes and procedures designed to ensure compliance. In developing procedures, we seek to ease the burden of compliance and improve the probability of success by incorporating controls into a business’s existing procedures where possible, rather than creating another layer of requirements.
Drinker Biddle’s lawyers regularly represent clients before the U.S. Departments of State, Commerce and Treasury to obtain commodity jurisdictions, classification rulings, licenses and other export approvals. We also work with clients to assess potential violations, file voluntary disclosures to regulating agencies as necessary, conduct transactional due diligence, establish compliance programs and internal controls, and work to cancel or minimize any potential fines and penalties. Our team includes attorneys who have served at these agencies and on government advisory bodies and are well-versed in translating “inside the beltway” knowledge into practical advice for businesses, boards and investors.
National Security and CFIUS
The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) is increasingly scrutinizing cross-border investments to assess their impact on U.S. national security. In recent years, CFIUS also has been more frequently exercising its authority to block, unwind or modify the terms of such transactions. Companies and investors in the aerospace, defense, information technology, software, semiconductor, manufacturing, government services and advanced materials industries need to be aware of these issues at the earliest stages of a transaction and take account of the CFIUS review process on deal prospects, valuation and timing.
Our Customs and International Trade Group has successfully advised foreign investors, U.S. companies and financial backers on a range of issues impacting CFIUS approval for deals involving everything from advanced export-controlled technologies to consumer products, telecommunications and transportation infrastructure. We work with clients at all stages of CFIUS reviews, from identifying and resolving potential roadblocks in the deal planning and pre-closing diligence phases to designing and implementing agreements to mitigate foreign ownership, control or influence (FOCI) in accordance with Defense Security Service (DSS) requirements.
Trade Remedies & Litigation
Importers and exporters continuously face the risk of potentially devastating consequences in the event of import surges, antidumping/countervailing duties, merchandise exclusion orders and other restrictive trade measures. In order to help clients minimize the risks of these adverse consequences, our lawyers advocate client interests in the trade remedies arena before numerous government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. International Trade Commission, and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. We have successfully represented clients in antidumping matters, scope determinations, intellectual property protection actions (Section 337 proceedings), short-supply petitions and other administrative proceedings.
Trade litigation can be an important component to a business’s overall trade strategy, whether used as a pre-emptive measure to prevent immediate injury or as a last resort when all other options of dispute resolution or administrative remedies have failed. Our lawyers provide a wide range of trade litigation services, from traditional customs litigation before the U.S. Court of International Trade and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, to lawsuits against private parties. Our trade litigation lawyers have successfully obtained millions of dollars in duty and tax refunds on behalf of clients, and have helped establish legal precedents in support of the trade community.
With the growing awareness of terrorism, governments (both U.S. and foreign) continue to consider new ways of securing their borders. In response, companies conducting business in the global arena seek to secure their supply chains and develop more flexible, proactive and scalable approaches to international trade security. Providing for safe transportation and logistics services while meeting today’s heightened security requirements has become a critical component for any company doing business across international borders. Import/Export compliance alone is no longer enough to ensure that a company will retain its competitive advantage and get product to market in a timely manner. Companies now need to make new investments in trade security through tighter transportation controls and supply chain visibility.
Our team of professionals has broad experience in assisting companies as they navigate the growing maze of supply chain security regulations and voluntary initiatives. We have a wealth of experience in both domestic and international logistics, and understand the implications of far-reaching rules and regulations that directly affect supply chains, such as the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT), the Container Security Initiative (CSI) and the World Customs Organization (WCO) SAFE Framework. Our team has comprehensive experience in helping companies participate in C-TPAT, successfully navigating the application process and working with large corporations with multiple importing sites to integrate potentially diverse business practices. We have also worked extensively with clients following acceptance into C-TPAT to ensure a smooth validation process, and to support ongoing compliance obligations and program changes in order to maximize the benefits available under the program.
Although no one can precisely predict what business processes and data will be needed to respond to supply chain security threats and governmental standards over time, it is almost certain that the frequency and rigor of governmental scrutiny of the security of global trade will accelerate. Our Customs and Trade lawyers and professionals will ensure that companies have the essential supply chain security information they need to implement workable solutions.
Government Relations and Trade Policy
Government actions, and changing national and global trade policies, can adversely affect importers and exporters. Our lawyers are experienced in advocating before the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the U.S. Congress and Congressional committees, and foreign governments to help ensure that our clients’ interests are represented. We have the depth of experience to provide effective lobbying solutions to enable our clients to be heard and to obtain concrete relief.