In re Section 301 Cases

Decision Date06 July 2021
Docket NumberSlip Op 21-81,Court No. 21-00052
Citation524 F.Supp.3d 1355
Parties IN RE SECTION 301 CASES
CourtU.S. Court of International Trade

Matthew R. Nicely and Pratik A. Shah, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, of Washington, DC, argued for plaintiffs HMTX Industries LLC, Halstead New England Corporation, Metroflor Corporation, and Jasco Products Company LLC. With them on the brief were James E. Tysse, Devin S. Sikes, Daniel M. Witkowski, and Sarah B. W. Kirwin.

Jamie L. Shookman, Trial Attorney, Commercial Litigation Branch, Civil Division, U.S. Department of Justice, of New York, NY, argued for defendants. Also on the brief were Brian M. Boynton, Acting Assistant Attorney General, Jeanne E. Davidson, Director, L. Misha Preheim, Assistant Director, Justin R. Miller, Attorney-In-Charge, International Trade Field Office, and Sosun Bae, Senior Trial Counsel, and Ann C. Motto, Trial Attorney, Commercial Litigation Branch, Civil Division, U.S. Department of Justice, of Washington, DC. Of Counsel on the brief were Megan Grimball, Associate General Counsel, Philip Butler, Associate General Counsel, and Edward Marcus, Assistant General Counsel, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, of Washington, DC, and Paula Smith, Assistant Chief Counsel, Edward Maurer, Deputy Assistant Chief Counsel, and Valerie Sorensen-Clark, Attorney, Office of the Assistant Chief Counsel, International Trade Litigation, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, of New York, NY.

Before: Mark A. Barnett, Claire R. Kelly and Jennifer Choe-Groves, Judges

OPINION

Kelly, Judge:

Plaintiffs HMTX Industries LLC, Halstead New England Corporation, Metroflor Corporation, and Jasco Products Company LLC commenced the first of approximately 3,600 cases (the "Section 301 Cases") contesting the imposition of a third and fourth round of tariffs by the Office of the United States Trade Representative ("USTR") pursuant to Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, 19 U.S.C. § 2411, et seq. ("the Trade Act"). See generally Am. Compl., HMTX Indus. LLC v. United States, Court No. 20-cv-00177 (CIT Sept. 21, 2020), ECF No. 12 ("20-177 Am. Compl."). Plaintiffs now move the court for a preliminary injunction pursuant to U.S. Court of International Trade ("CIT") Rule 65(a) suspending liquidation of unliquidated entries subject to the contested tariffs.1 Pls.’ Mot. for Prelim. Inj. Limited to Suspension of Liquidation, April 23, 2021, ECF No. 287 ("Pls.’ Mot."). Plaintiffs request that any injunction extend to all Section 301 Cases "subject to an opt-out mechanism" for individual plaintiffs. Pls.’ Mot. at 2. Defendants United States, et al. ("the Government") oppose the motion. Defs.’ Opp'n to Pls.’ Mot. for Prelim. Inj. Limited to Suspension, May 14, 2021, ECF No. 304 ("Defs.’ Opp'n"). Plaintiffs further move for leave to file a reply to the Government's opposition. Pls.’ Mot. for Leave to File a Reply in Supp. of a Prelim. Inj. Limited to Suspension of Liquidation, May 20, 2021, ECF No. 307; see also Proposed Reply in Supp. of Pls.’ Mot. for Prelim. Inj. Limited to Suspension of Liquidation, May 20, 2021, ECF No. 307-1 ("Pls.’ Reply"). The Government defers to the court's discretion as to acceptance of Plaintiffs’ Reply. Defs.’ Resp. to Pls.’ Mot. for Leave to File a Reply in Supp. of a Prelim. Inj. Limited to Suspension of Liquidation, May 26, 2021, ECF No. 309. For the reasons set forth below, both of Plaintiffs’ motions are granted.2

BACKGROUND

On August 14, 2017, the President issued a memorandum instructing the USTR to consider, consistent with Section 302(b) of the Trade Act, initiating an investigation addressing the Government of the People's Republic of China's ("China") "laws, policies, practices, or actions that may be unreasonable or discriminatory and that may be harming American intellectual property rights, innovation, or technology development." Addressing China's Laws, Policies, Practices, and Actions Related to Intellectual Property, Innovation, and Technology, 82 Fed. Reg. 39,007 (Aug. 17, 2017). The USTR initiated an investigation on August 18, 2017. Initiation of Section 301 Investigation; Hearing; and Request for Public Comment: China's Acts, Policies, and Practices Related to Technology Transfer, Intellectual Property, and Innovation, 82 Fed. Reg. 40,213 (Aug. 24, 2017). On March 22, 2018, the USTR published a report announcing the results of its investigation. OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES TRADE REPRESENTATIVE , FINDINGS OF THE INVESTIGATION INTO CHINA'S ACTS , POLICIES , AND PRACTICES RELATED TO TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER , INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY , AND INNOVATION UNDER SECTION 301 OF THE TRADE ACT OF 1974 (2018), https://ustr.gov/sites/default/files/Section% 20301% 20FINAL.PDF.

On June 20, 2018, the USTR published notice of a final list of products covering 818 tariff subheadings that would be subject to an additional duty of 25 percent ad valorem. Notice of Action and Request for Public Comment Concerning Proposed Determination of Action Pursuant to Section 301: China's Acts, Policies, and Practices Related to Technology Transfer, Intellectual Property, and Innovation, 83 Fed. Reg. 28,710 (June 20, 2018) ("List 1"). On August 16, 2018, the USTR published notice of an additional list of products covering 279 tariff subheadings that would be subject to an additional duty of 25 percent ad valorem. Notice of Action Pursuant to Section 301: China's Acts, Policies, and Practices Related to Technology Transfer, Intellectual Property, and Innovation, 83 Fed. Reg. 40,823 (Aug. 16, 2018) ("List 2").

During the time period between the USTR's finalization of List 1 and List 2, the USTR indicated its intent to modify the action by imposing an additional duty of 10 percent ad valorem on another list of products imported from China. Request for Comments Concerning Proposed Modification of Action Pursuant to Section 301: China's Acts, Policies, and Practices Related to Technology Transfer, Intellectual Property, and Innovation, 83 Fed. Reg. 33,608 (July 17, 2018). On September 21, 2018, the USTR published final notice of new duties with an effective date of September 24, 2018. Notice of Modification of Action Pursuant to Section 301 Action: China's Acts, Policies, and Practices Related to Technology Transfer, Intellectual Property, and Innovation, 83 Fed. Reg. 47,974 (Sept. 21, 2018) ("List 3"). The rate of additional duty on products covered by List 3 was set to increase to 25 percent ad valorem on January 1, 2019. Id. After several extensions of the date of implementation of the List 3 tariffs issued in connection with ongoing trade negotiations, on May 10, 2019 (or June 15, 2019, depending on the date of export), List 3 duties increased to 25 percent ad valorem. Notice of Modification of Section 301 Action: China's Acts, Policies, and Practices Related to Technology Transfer, Intellectual Property, and Innovation, 84 Fed. Reg. 20,459 (May 9, 2019) ; Implementing Modification to Section 301 Action: China's Acts, Policies, and Practices Related to Technology Transfer, Intellectual Property, and Innovation, 84 Fed. Reg. 21,892 (May 15, 2019) ; Additional Implementing Modification to Section 301 Action: China's Acts, Policies, and Practices Related to Technology Transfer, Intellectual Property, and Innovation, 84 Fed. Reg. 26,930 (June 10, 2019).

The USTR subsequently established an exclusion procedure pursuant to which importers could request exclusion of their products from List 3 duties. Procedures for Requests to Exclude Particular Products From the September 2018 Action Pursuant to Section 301: China's Acts, Policies, and Practices Related to Technology Transfer, Intellectual Property, and Innovation, 84 Fed. Reg. 29,576 (June 24, 2019). Plaintiffs obtained exclusions for certain of their imports, effective September 24, 2018, through August 7, 2020. Notice of Product Exclusions: China's Acts, Policies, and Practices Related to Technology Transfer, Intellectual Property, and Innovation, 84 Fed. Reg. 61,674 (Nov. 13, 2019) ; Notice of Product Exclusions: China's Acts, Policies, and Practices Related to Technology Transfer, Intellectual Property, and Innovation, 84 Fed. Reg. 69,012 (Dec. 17, 2019) ; Notice of Product Exclusions: China's Acts, Policies, and Practices Related to Technology Transfer, Intellectual Property, and Innovation, 85 Fed. Reg. 549 (Jan. 6, 2020) ; Notice of Product Exclusions: China's Acts, Policies, and Practices Related to Technology Transfer, Intellectual Property, and Innovation, 85 Fed. Reg. 9921 (Feb. 20, 2020).

On May 17, 2019, the USTR announced its intent to again modify the action to impose additional duties up to 25 percent ad valorem on another list of products imported from China. Request for Comments Concerning Proposed Modification of Action Pursuant to Section 301: China's Acts, Policies, and Practices Related to Technology Transfer, Intellectual Property, and Innovation, 84 Fed. Reg. 22,564 (May 17, 2019). On August 20, 2019, the USTR announced that it was imposing additional duties of 10 percent ad valorem on products identified in the May 17, 2019 request for comments. Notice of Modification of Section 301 Action: China's Acts, Policies, and Practices Related to Technology Transfer, Intellectual Property, and Innovation, 84 Fed. Reg. 43,304 (Aug. 20, 2019) ("List 4"). List 4 was further categorized into List 4A and List 4B. Id.

Thereafter, the USTR provided notice of its intent to increase the additional duty rate applicable to List 4A and List 4B from 10 percent ad valorem to 15 percent ad valorem. Notice of Modification of Section 301 Action: China's Acts, Policies, and Practices Related to Technology Transfer, Intellectual Property, and Innovation, 84 Fed. Reg. 45,821 (Aug. 30, 2019). On December 18, 2019, the USTR indefinitely suspended the additional duties of 15 percent ad valorem on List 4B, but not List 4A. Notice of Modification of Section 301 Action: China's Acts, Policies, and Practices Related to Technology Transfer,...

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