I’m an international trade lawyer, practicing for more than 30 years; for 28 of them, my job was a detail-oriented legal specialty embedded in multi-national corporations and not the ready topic of cocktail conversations. President Trump changed all that. Now, everyone it seems, from soy bean farmers in Louisiana and Minnesota to manufacturers in Michigan, upstate New York and Missouri are talking international trade, a language that I thought was as widely known as Sanskrit. “Tariffs” is the word on peoples’ tongues, and they want to understand them. Since the first tariffs were imposed in March 2018, anyone with an impacted business now knows that tariffs are a tax paid by importers and consumers of foreign goods; tariffs are not paid by foreign countries or producers, even though it’s their unfair or illegal practices that caused them.
However, as I’ve pored through the intense media reporting on the damage Trump’s tariffs are wreaking, I’ve come to realize that most people, particularly those most affected, have been reacting to the tariffs in the same way they would to natural disasters that have ravaged this country. But, unlike a monstrous hurricane or raging wildfire, tariffs don’t have to be endured until some hopeful end. Rather tariffs, which are just the tax rate to be paid on imported goods, need to be seen as just one more part of the entire importing process! Notwithstanding media insinuations to the contrary, my more than a quarter century professional experience of steering companies through the channels of international trade tells me: If the importers who are paying and suffering under the new tariffs conducted a critical review of their entire import operations, many would find that they have some completely legal and viable options that could mitigate, if not eliminate entirely, the tariffs that are hurting them. In short, it’s possible to tackle Trump’s tariffs.
In the following series of post, I will discuss in more detail the three basic components of the import process – identity, value and origin – and show how a review of each of these components in your business could soften the impact of Trump’s tariffs. Yes, my job is still an arcane and detail-oriented specialty – but, now it’s one that just might save your business in the new world of international trade. Stay tuned.