On June 25, 2015, the US House of Representatives passed the Trade Preferences Extension Act of 2015 (the Act includes a Generalized System of Preferences renewal provision). President Obama is expected to sign the Act into law soon.

In addition to reviving GSP, the Act makes GSP benefits retroactive to the date on which the program lapsed (July 31, 2013). Importers will thus be entitled to Customs duty refunds for eligible merchandise imported from the GSP countries since August 1, 2013.

The refunds, however, are not automatic. According to the legislation, importers will have within180 days from the date of enactment of the statute to follow a refund application process to claim a refund. Because the refunds are not automatic and there is a limited window for requesting them (180 days), importers should submit their claims as early as possible.

Below are key points of the legislation:

  • It revives the GSP program and sets a new expiration date of December 31, 2017
  • It sets the new start date for the right to make entries duty-free under GSP to a date that is “30 days from the date of enactment” of the statute (there is no fixed date of enactment since the President has not signed the Act into law yet but it will likely be soon)
  • An entry made after August 1, 2013 can be liquidated/reliquidated duty free ONLY IF a request for such treatment is filed with Customs no later than 180 days from the date of enactment of the statute
  • The request must contain sufficient information to enable Customs to “locate the entry” or to “reconstruct the entry” if Customs cannot locate it
  • Customs must refund overpaid duties within 90 days from the date of the liquidation/reliquidation (i.e., the Customs action on the request for refund, not from the date of the importer’s request for the refund)
  • No interest will be paid on the refunded duties

The legislation also addresses how Customs will manage the "competitive need limitations" provisions of the statute, which is the program that allows the president to remove from the duty-free list those goods that are imported in excessive volumes ($155 million for 2012). Ordinarily, the President must decide which goods will be removed from the list by July 1st of each year but for 2015, the deadline has been pushed back to October 1, 2015.