Trade Agencies Closed for Business with Government Shutdown

As a result of the partial government shutdown which began on December 22, 2018, about 800,000 federal employees are currently on furlough or working without pay. Nine federal departments have been shutdown: Department of Commerce; Department of Treasury; Department of Agriculture; Homeland Security Department; Department of the Interior; Deparment of Justice; Department of State; Department of Housing and Urban Development; and the Department of Transportation.

Most of the U.S. government’s trade-oriented agencies have either shut down or had their operations severly restricted. Below is a status report.

First the good news: If you stop by your local post office, you can still mail those holiday returns because the USPS is not a government agency. In addition:

Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (“CAFC”): The CAFC announced that it will remain open for business and will be fully staffed,” including holding the arguments scheduled during the January 2019 court sitting; see http://​www​.cafc​.uscourts​.gov/​a​n​n​o​u​n​c​e​ments

Court of International Trade (“CIT”): The CIT website has not posted a notice that its operations will be affected by the shutdown.

United States Trade Representative (“USTR”): According to a December 28th news release, USTR personnel continue to conduct all operations, including trade negotiations and enforcement.”

And now the bad news:

U.S. Department of Commerce (“International Trade Administration” and Bureau of Industry and Security”): As summarized above, the Department of Commerce was shuttered as part of the government shutdown. CNBC reports that furloughs will affect vast swathes of Department of Commerce staff, approximately 40,000 people or 86 percent. Both the ITA and BIS’ websites are not being updated.”

International Trade Commission (“ITC”): The ITC has ceased regular operations; noting the disruption” of significant activties” including: Investigative activities, including proceedings under sections 332, 337, and 201, and Title VII of the Tariff Act of 1930, maintenance of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the U.S., technical assistance to the U.S. Trade Representative and Congress, as well as all other government functions other than those directly supporting active litigation to which the USITC or the United States is a party. See https://​www​.usitc​.gov/​s​i​t​e​s​/​d​e​f​a​u​l​t​/​f​i​l​e​s​/​d​o​c​u​m​e​n​t​s​/​u​s​i​t​c​_​f​y​_​2​0​1​8​_​s​h​u​t​d​o​w​n​_​p​l​a​n​_​f​i​n​a​l.pdf

For security reasons, EDIS has been brought offline. The HTS Search Tool and Dataweb will continue to be available, but no staff assistance will be provided for these applications.

Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”): Homeland Security, the department that oversees CBP, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the TSA, Coast Guard and the Secret Service is affected. But since most employees are considered essential,” they are working without pay until a funding bill is passed. It’s reported that as many as 54,000 CBP employees are working without paychecks. On a conference call with interested parties, CBP indicated that the ports will be staffed as normal” to ensure that the flow of trade {is} as close to normal as possible.” Due to the lapse in federal funding, however, the CBP website will not be actively managed, transactions submitted through the website might not be processed, and CBP will not respond to inquiries until after the shutdown.

Federal Maritime Commission (“FMC”): The Federal Maritime Commission is closed as part of the partial federal government shutdown due to a lapse in appropriations. The Commission will resume normal operations when appropriations legislation is enacted and the federal government reopens, according to a recent annoucement.

U.S. Department of State – Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC): Per its website, operations at DDTC are significantly curtailed, including requests for licenses, advisory opinions, and retransfers, except for those that provide direct support to the military, humanitarian aid, or other similar emergencies. All D-Trade electronic submissions will be rejected by the system and returned to the applicant. Requests that are currently in process at the DDTC as of December 21, 2018, will remain in that status. Further review actions, however, will be delayed until after restoration of funding.” Industry applicants believing they have a case (either In-Review” or new submission required) involving direct support to the military, humanitarian aid, or other similar emergencies, should email the DDTC Response Team (DDTCResponseTeam@​state.​gov). The email subject line MUST read Request for Emergency License,” and the message must include the license number (if already pending with DDTC), the applicant’s name and registration code, the end-use/end-user, justification for needing an emergency license, and a point of contact. The Directorate will contact the requestor with guidance on how to proceed if the request will be honored.