Sidley’s Washington, D.C., Brussels, and London-based Customs practice is adept at the “nuts and bolts” of customs issues, while at the same time being well-versed in the nuances of trade policy. Members of our practice have served in numerous roles in the U.S. government, European Commission, United Kingdom, and international organizations involving the regulation of imports and exports. Through our representation of prominent trade associations, foreign sovereigns, and multinationals, we stay at the front lines of customs reform, trade facilitation, and the challenging integration of the new customs mission of cargo security.
We have extensive experience in the full range of traditional customs issues, including tariff classification, valuation, transfer pricing, origin, labeling, trade agreements and preference programs, counterfeits and border enforcement of IP rights, specific customs regimes such as inward processing, duty remission, and special (antidumping, countervailing, and safeguard) duties. We regularly appear before U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and other U.S. agencies, before the European Commission (including the Directorate-General for Taxation and Customs Union (TAXUD), and the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF)) and national EU customs administrations, and before His Majesty's Revenue and Customs. When matters cannot be satisfactorily resolved at the administrative level, we are prepared to advance our clients' interests in the U.S. courts of exclusive jurisdiction for trade issues the Court of Justice of the European Union and the EU Member States' courts, the UK's courts, and the World Trade Organization (WTO). We also work with international organizations like the World Customs Organization (WCO) and the WTO on customs and trade facilitation issues. Our group is currently litigating the first-ever dispute under the Customs Valuation Agreement at the WTO.
We handle a substantial amount of trade compliance work. We have assisted many companies in the evaluation, development, or enhancement of import and special duty compliance programs. We have conducted internal reviews and investigations of potentially non-compliant activity, recommended disclosures when appropriate, and devised remedial measures as warranted. When customs authorities launch formal audits, we are prepared to assist our clients in those proceedings. In the event that transactions become the subject of enforcement activity, we are adept at representing our clients' interests at every stage of such proceedings, from administrative to judicial fora.
Sidley’s Customs practice has been at the forefront of recent trends in the expansion of the missions of customs authorities, most specifically supply chain security and import safety. We have served as private sector representatives to the WCO in its development and implementation of the SAFE Framework initiative for global trade security, including the development of authorized economic operator (AEO) programs. On behalf of trade association clients and companies in affected industries, we have worked with the U.S. administration and Congress on the increasingly important issue of import safety.
We are one of the premier customs and trade policy practices, consistently ranked “Band 1” by Chambers and other legal- ranking publications in the United States and Europe. For over 25 years, our lawyers have provided pragmatic and tailored advice to clients on all aspects of U.S., EU, and UK customs law, including designing and implementing effective compliance programs, maximizing duty savings opportunities, and responding to government inquiries and enforcement actions. Our practitioners routinely work with colleagues in other disciplines and offices to help clients navigate legal complexities across practices and borders with ease. Our team includes former in-house counsel and CBP headquarters lawyers. Our clients include prominent trade associations and multinational companies from a range of industries, including food and agriculture, consumer products, textile and apparel, medical devices, life sciences, high tech, automotive and aerospace, chemicals and industrial materials, and energy.
Counseling, Customs Planning, and Compliance
Our professionals advise clients in all aspects of customs law and related matters, including customs valuation, tariff classification, country of origin determinations and marking, import restraints, forced labor compliance/supply chain diligence, duty preference and duty deferral programs, and trade policy issues. Our practice extends to advising on requirements administered by other agencies, including, in the United States, “Made in USA” claims under the Federal Trade Commission, product exclusion processes related to the duties imposed under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 and Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, and government procurement origin determinations governed by the Buy American Act, the Trade Agreements Act, the Infrastructure Investment, the JOBS Act, and so forth.
Representation in Enforcement Matters
Our practitioners have extensive experience representing clients in government audits, investigations, and other administrative and criminal customs enforcement proceedings. We also represent clients in customs and trade remedy matters before the U.S. Court of International Trade and U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, the Court of Justice of the EU and Member States, and the UK courts.
Multidisciplinary/Multi-jurisdictional Representation and Advice
Our lawyers routinely collaborate with colleagues in other practices and offices to deliver seamless advice on multidisciplinary and multi-jurisdictional issues, such as corporate restructurings, mergers and acquisitions, the intersection between transfer pricing and customs valuation, intellectual property licensing, and so on.