The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) announced on July 6, 2015 that it will launch a limited review of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), the U.S. trade program that provides duty-free treatment for certain products from beneficiary developing countries (BDCs). The USTR review will focus on products that exceeded the stipulated value or volume thresholds known as competitive needs limitations (CNL) in 2014. Products that exceeded the CNL in 2014 will be excluded from duty-free treatment beginning October 1, 2015, unless the president grants a waiver.

Possible exclusion of products from GSP duty-free treatment

 USTR is considering petitions regarding waivers of CNL for the following groups of products:

  1. Products that exceeded the CNL in 2014. Two products (both from Thailand) were imported in excess of the CNL for that product in 2014. These two products will be excluded from GSP duty-free treatment for that country if a waiver is not granted1:
    • HTS 2008.19.15—Coconuts otherwise prepared or preserved; and
    • HTS 7408.29.10—Copper alloys (other than brass, cupronickel, or nickel-silver), wire, coated or plated with metal.
  2. Products that exceeded the CNL but are eligible for a de minimis waiver. More than 90 GSP-eligible products were imported in excess of the CNL, but are eligible for a de minimis waiver. These products are automatically considered in the USTR review without filing a petition, but public comments are invited, including both comments in support of and those opposed to de minimis waivers.
  3. Products eligible for redesignation. More than 150 GSP-eligible products from certain BDCs are currently not receiving GSP duty-free treatment but may be considered for GSP redesignation based on 2014 trade data and consideration of certain statutory factors.
  4. Products subject to CNL waiver revocation. Three products from specified BDCs are subject to CNL waiver revocation based on the relevant provisions of the Trade Act of 1974:
    • HTS 4412.31.40—(for Indonesia) Certain plywood sheets not over 6 mm thick;
    • HTS 7413.00.10—(for Turkey) Certain copper, stranded wire; and
    • HTS 7413.00.50—(for Turkey) Certain copper cables and plaited bands.

​​Possible designation of new cotton products as eligible for duty-free treatment

USTR is also considering designating certain cotton products as GSP-eligible pursuant to the grant of authority in the Trade Preferences Extension Act of 2015. This act grants the president authority to designate five cotton products only from least-developed BDCs as GSP-eligible. The duty-free designation of these cotton products would apply to 43 countries total, but would likely have the strongest effect on the four West African cotton-producing nations of Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, and Mali. These products include:

  • HTS 5201.00.18, 5201.00.28, and 5201.00.38—Certain cotton, not carded or combed, of various specified staple lengths;
  • HTS 5202.99.30—Certain cotton card strips made from cotton waste; and
  • HTS 5203.00.30—Certain cotton fibers, carded or combed.

Petitions, comments, and public hearing 
The deadline for comments is July 31, 2015, and USTR is seeking comments relating to: (1) the CNL waiver petitions; (2) de minimis waivers of CNL; (3) redesignations of products that were previously excluded from certain countries based on CNL; (4) revocation of CNL waivers; and (5) the proposed addition of the five cotton products mentioned above.
In addition to accepting written comments on all of the issues, USTR will hold a public hearing on August 11, 2015 to receive testimony regarding the waiver petitions for the two products from Thailand and the proposed designation of the five cotton products. Requests to make a presentation at the public hearing must be received by July 31, 2015.   
Customs announces processing automated refunds of GSP SPI-flagged entries and deadline to request refunds for non-flagged entries filed during the GSP program's lapse period after July 31, 2013
GSP expired on July 31, 2013 and was reauthorized in the Trade Preferences Extension Act signed June 29, 2015. As in previous reauthorizations of GSP, GSP treatment has retroactive effect back to July 31, 2013.  During the GSP lapse period prior to reauthorization, importers had to pay normal duties but could continue to flag GSP-eligible importations with the GSP special program indicator (SPI). CBP has now announced procedures for processing of refund requests. Consistent with past rounds of reauthorization, CBP will begin processing automated refunds of SPI-flagged duties shortly after the GSP effective date of July 29, 2015. For GSP-eligible entries that did not use the SPI, refund of duties deposited must be requested in writing to the Port Director at the port of entry by December 28, 2015 and must include the entry number, the line number, and requested refund amount so as to enable CBP to locate the entry or to reconstruct the entry if it cannot be located. A post-entry amendment or post summary correction can also be submitted but is not required.