NAFTA Renegotiation Goes Live

USTR Lighthizer yesterday delivered the Administration’s official 90-day notice to Congress that it will renegotiate NAFTA.

The notice says that the process will be carried out “consistent with Congressional priorities and objectives outlined in section 102 of the Trade Priorities and Accountability Act,which is the TPA fast-track legislation passed in 2015. This is a welcome indication that the Administration is proceeding, at least for now, in the manner that Congress contemplates. While President Trump could change course, there is for now at least reason to believe that the negotiation will proceed in the manner typical of FTA negotiations, with Congressional notification and ratification of the final agreement, rather than a Presidential assertion of unilateral authority to make revisions under the Trade Act of 1974 or the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. Continue Reading

Buy American and Hire American – New Executive Order Promises to Put American Workers First, But Practical Impacts Remain Unclear

On April 18, President Trump signed a new executive order (EO) at a ceremony in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The EO is entitled “Buy American and Hire American” and focuses on these two themes, with the President’s stated goal of ending the “theft of American prosperity” by focusing on American workers and products. While the details of how the new EO will be applied will undoubtedly take months to implement (pending numerous agency-level reviews), companies doing business with the federal government, or with an interest in foreign high-skill workers, should be aware of these new developments so that they can prepare for the adjustments they will need to make in the near future, as the President’s efforts to put American workers first take shape. Continue Reading

New Tax Information Exchange Agreement Between the United States and Argentina

The governments of Argentina and the United States signed on December 23rd, 2016, a new tax information exchange agreement (“TIEA”). Jack Lew, U.S. Treasury Secretary, stated that the TIEA will allow for important collaboration between the two countries’ tax enforcement efforts.  The TIEA provides a legal framework for the reciprocal and automatic exchange of tax information, which will allow Argentina to (i) comply with the U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, and (ii) obtain information about Argentinean taxpayers that hold undeclared assets in the United States.

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Congress Likely to Focus its Oversight Spotlight on the Private Sector

In a recent article in Entrepreneur, Sheppard Mullin partner Jonathan Meyer, a former Senate counsel to Vice President Biden and Deputy General Counsel at the Department of Homeland Security, points out that Congressional oversight of companies is likely to increase in the next two years, and discusses some of the hottest topics it is likely to focus on.  These include healthcare, financial reform and tax avoidance, cybersecurity and product safety, among others.  Companies should keep an eye on Capitol Hill, and be ready for what might come their way.

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Negotiation By Tweet: The Uncertain Future of U.S.-Cuba Relations

After the announcement of Fidel Castro’s death on November 26, 2016, President Barack Obama sent a message to the Cuban people highlighting his administration’s efforts to improve relations between the United States and Cuba. “History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him…[T]he Cuban people must know that they have a friend and partner in the United States of America,” Obama said.

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Obama’s Not Slowing Down On Cuba: New Steps Forward Open Doors (and Humidors!) for Collaboration

With fewer than 100 days left in office, President Obama is not slowing down on his efforts to normalize relations between the United States and Cuba. Today, several changes to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR) and Export Administration Regulations (EAR) go into effect. Those changes build on the plan President Obama laid out in December 2014 to increase the means for Americans and Cubans to collaborate in business, education, travel, and humanitarian work. The amendments will strengthen the ties between the two countries, stimulate Cuba’s private sector, create commercial opportunities for both the American and Cuban people, and potentially improve the lives of many Cubans. U.S. companies looking to expand into Cuba should review these changes carefully to identify and develop strategies for growth.

We have included some highlights from the updated regulations below that could significantly  impact your business (or may prompt you to create a new one!). For the full CACR amendments, click here. For the full EAR amendments, click here.

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FCC Liberalizes Rules for Foreign Investment in U.S. Broadcast Licensees

On September 30, 2016, the FCC adopted an order designed to liberalize and streamline the foreign ownership review process for broadcast licensees (the “Broadcast Liberalization Order”).  Section 310(b) of the Communications Act caps at 25 percent the amount of indirect foreign investment permissible in a U.S. broadcast, common carrier, or aeronautical fixed or en route radio licensee without obtaining FCC approval.  Prior to 2013, the long-standing presumption among FCC practitioners was that the FCC simply would not allow indirect foreign ownership of a U.S. broadcast licensee in excess of the 25% benchmark in the Communications Act, even though the Act expressly contemplated such investments so long as they were blessed by the FCC.  The Commission issued an Order in 2013 clarifying that the 25% foreign investment mark served only as a trigger requiring the FCC to review applications on a case-by-case basis, not an automatic bar to such investment.  Foreign investment in broadcast licensees above 25% required prior express consent, based on an evaluation of public interest and national security considerations.  Also in 2013, the FCC streamlined the process for reviewing foreign ownership amounts in excess of 25% for common carrier and aeronautical radio licensees.  The recent Broadcast Liberalization Order largely extended these same rules and procedures to broadcast licensees, with certain exceptions and modifications.

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A Surge In Populism: Dangers To Transnational Trade In The Americas And Reasons For Hope

The ongoing presidential election in the United States has underscored a move against free trade by both of the main political parties.  This article briefly summarizes some of the proven benefits of free trade and juxtaposes these with the stated positions of the Democratic and Republican parties in the pending presidential election.  The article also examines, and disposes of, several of the key criticisms of the legal framework underpinning further trade integration.  The article ends hopefully—historically, U.S. Presidents have abandoned anti-trade campaign rhetoric once in the Oval Office.

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In Wake of Panama Papers Scandal Obama Calls for Stricter Bank Regulations, Tax Rules

In a news conference today President Obama addressed rules and proposed regulations announced Thursday intended to help the U.S. fight tax evasion and other crimes connected to anonymous offshore companies and accounts.  The announcements come after a month of intense review by the administration following the first release of the so-called Panama Papers, millions of documents stolen or leaked from Panamanian law firm Mossack, Fonseca.  The papers have revealed a who’s who of international politicians, business leaders, sports figures and celebrities involved with financial transactions accomplished through anonymous shell corporations.

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Hotels and Hospitality in Cuba: OFAC and Obama Paving the Way

With more flights, relaxing regulations, a historic presidential trip to Cuba, and news of hospitality services expanding into Cuba, the pathway into Cuba for hotels and hospitality companies seems smooth.  But businesses should look out for the potential hurdles and compliance risks.  Don’t fret – we can help you welcome your guests.

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