In a November 3, 2020 letter, U.S. Trade Representative (“USTR”) Robert E. Lighthizer requested that the International Trade Commission (“ITC”) “monitor and investigate imports of strawberries and bell peppers” pursuant to section 332(g) of the Tariff Act of 1930.  Section 332 is a provision that allows USTR to ask for a fact-finding investigation by the ITC, but does not result directly in any trade relief.  USTR’s request follows the September 1, 2020 announcement of an interagency plan to address the threat of increased imports of perishable fruits and vegetables to American producers.

USTR’s request to monitor and investigate imports of strawberries and bell peppers is likely a precursor to further trade actions.  Such actions could include a government self-initiated section 201 case initially brought at the ITC, asking for additional quotas or tariffs, or other actions, which must then be ultimately decided by the President.  This type of case is now ongoing regarding imports of blueberries.

Whether a new Biden Administration would be interested in taking up a self-initiated case like this one is unknown.  However, even if a Biden Administration does not self-initiate a case, the U.S. producers also could bring various types of actions, relying in large part on the information developed by the ITC as part of this section 332 study.  According to USTR itself, the ITC’s collection and analysis of information would expedite the initiation of investigations.

The products in question fall under the following categories of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States:

  • Fresh or chilled strawberries: 0810.10;
  • Fresh or chilled bell peppers:
    • 60.4015,
    • 60.4025,
    • 60.4065,
    • and 0709.60.4085;

We will continue to monitor this situation and provide any updates. Husch Blackwell encourages those who may have questions or concerns on this issue to please contact the International Trade and Supply Chain team.