Import and export trade today affects almost every person in the world. Import-export trade involves the building of offices or plants in foreign countries, sending technical or other specialists abroad, and expanding the distribution of a product into the international market. The industry also involves transport companies and the worldwide network of ports, rail terminals, truck depots, and airports through which merchandise passes. Import-export trade is heavily influenced by government policies that affect the value of currency, set import duties that must be paid, set quotas limiting imports, impose standards on imported merchandise (such as safety requirements or inspection for pests), arm our allies with American weaponry, impose embargoes against rogue nations, or create demand for goods that domestic producers cannot meet.
In negotiating the Covenant relationship between the United States and the Northern Mariana Islands the United States agreed to permit duty free entry into the United States of certain “qualified” products manufactured In the Commonwealth. A summary of the legal mechanism permitting such exports has been summarized as follows: Headnote 3 (a). General Headnote 3(a) of the Revised Tariff Schedules of the United States permits articles grown, manufactured, or produced in the Northern Mariana Islands to be imported into the customs territory of the United States free of duty if 70 percent or less of the value of the product is derived from foreign materials. If more than 70 percent of the value of the product is derived from foreign materials, the product is subject to the usual duties. For certain articles – notably textiles and wearing apparel – only 50 percent or less of the value may be derived from foreign material in order to qualify for duty free treatment.
In the 1980s a garment industry developed in Saipan. At that time, the CNMI controlled its own immigration and it allowed Chinese citizens to work in garment factories in the CNMI. The CNMI minimum wage was also much lower than in the mainland United States at the time and a restriction or quota on the importation of knit products into the United States did not apply to garments manufactured in the CNMI. These three factors resulted in employment of about 12,000 mostly Chinese workers in more than a dozen factories and shipment of $1 billion in garments to the United States by 1998. However in 2005 the quota on foreign made garments expired, CNMI minimum wage rates had substantially increased, and there was no longer enough of a benefit to manufacturing garments on a tiny island in the middle of the pacific to justify the cost of bringing in materials to the island and managing factories so far from the workers’ homes. The garment industry in the CNMI shut down and was gone by 2006.
Since the business activity of many companies and entities is affected by international trade laws, the correct management and treatment of issues relating to import taxes, regulation and supervision of import and export, and of international transport, enable companies to navigate their business path among the various levies and regulations of the field. Our areas of work include:
- Customs Law – the Firm’s attorneys advise clients on an array of issues relating to customs law, including the classification of goods, the valuation of goods, importer’s declarations, rules of origin, various customs processes – drawback, temporary entry, conditional exemption, returned export, tariff quota, the cancelation and reduce of customs, issues of secretarial files, matters relating to bond warehouses, matters relating to customs agents and international forwarders, and more.
- Import and Export Supervision – the Firm possesses extensive knowledge regarding the regulation of import to the CNMI and export overseas. The attorneys provide individual consulting to the Firm’s clients regarding various regulatory issues, including the obtainment of import and export permits from government ministries, obtaining standardization approvals, and correct conduct under export control regulations, including the export of dual-purpose goods and defense exports.
- Maritime Law, Aviation Law and International Forwarding – the Firm’s attorneys possess extensive expertise and experience in the fields of maritime law, aviation law and international forwarding. The attorneys represent importers, exporters, forwards and insurers in disputes and claims regarding cargo damages, ship chartering, and other matters. In addition, the attorneys provide legal consulting to various companies regarding agreements for the provision of logistics services and advise various companies in tender proceedings relating to shipping and international logistics services.
- Litigation – the Firm’s attorneys possess a wealth of experience in the representation of clients before courts of law and various tribunals, in matters relating to customs and the supervision of import and export. The integrative consulting, alongside the extensive expertise and experience in the field, enable the attorneys to strive to resolve the dispute in the shortest amount of time, while utilizing the most effective and creative legal tools.