International Trade Litigation

Our International Trade practice has a strong track record of success in handling complex antidumping and countervailing duty (AD/CVD) matters on behalf of our clients, particularly in the principal jurisdictions in which cases are filed, including the United States, the EU and China.  Our achievements and abilities have been recognized by several leading independent publications:  Legal 500 praises our “excellent responsiveness, wonderful business acumen and subject knowledge and insight;” Chambers has described Steptoe as a “go-to team for trade remedy matters,” while also awarding us its China “Award for Excellence” in international trade for the past two years; and Law360 has named us an “International Trade Group of the Year” for the past four years. 

Significant Depth of Experience                           

Steptoe has one of the largest International Trade practices in the world with more than 30 lawyers and other legal professionals spread across three continents.  Over the past four decades, our lawyers have represented clients in more than 160 AD/CVD cases, in a wide range of countries, and across a wide range of industries.  This extensive experience gives us a distinct advantage when developing case strategies for our clients.  We have particular experience representing companies from “non-market economies” like China in trade remedy proceedings.  With this experience and a track record of success – Chambers calls us the “leading experts in the field” – we have consistently been able to put companies facing these trade actions in the best possible competitive position. 

Our recent victories include: 

  • A unanimous victory at the US International Trade Commission (ITC) on behalf of a Korean producer in the AD/CVD investigation of Bottom Mount Combination Refrigerator-Freezers from Korea and Mexico.  As a result of this victory, Korean manufacturers are now free to export their refrigerators to the United States without additional duty liability.
  • Victories at the ITC on behalf of USEC Inc. in the sunset reviews of the AD order on Low Enriched Uranium from France, and of the AD suspension agreement on Uranium from Russia. These rulings ensure that French and Russian uranium imports will be subject to antidumping discipline for at least five more years.
  • Obtaining a ruling from the European Union Court of Justice in favor of a Chinese footwear producer in Zhejiang Aokang Shoes Co. Ltd v Council of the European Union, overturning a previous judgment by the Court of First Instance.
  • The successful exclusion of our clients’ products from the scope of an AD/CVD investigation involving imports of Hardwood Plywood from China.  As a result, our clients have been able to avoid millions of dollars of additional duty expense. 
  • Securing a significant victory for a leading US paperboard and packaging producer/exporter, in an antidumping investigation conducted by China’s Ministry of Commerce.  Through advocacy on the ground in China, the Ministry terminated the AD investigation without even reaching a preliminary finding.

Leveraging Our Global Reach

Trade disputes are increasingly globalized, and companies subject to these cases need a law firm with a global reach to help them achieve success.  With experienced trade lawyers in our Washington, Brussels, London, and Beijing offices, Steptoe is well positioned to handle our clients’ needs worldwide and to litigate trade remedy disputes in many jurisdictions.

We also rely on an extensive network of working relationships with international trade lawyers around the world.  Steptoe is also a member of the Lex Mundi global network of law firms, which provides us access to top-ranked lawyers in more than 100 jurisdictions worldwide.

Understanding the Policy Dimension

Trade remedy investigations are legal proceedings, but we recognize that they take place within a broader policy context.  For that reason, we understand that it is critical to develop a policy strategy that runs parallel to the legal strategy in order to maximize our clients’ chances for success. 

In developing these strategies, our lawyers draw on their experience in government service.  Our practice group is led by Ambassador Susan Esserman, who served as a Deputy United States Trade Representative, USTR General Counsel, and an Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Import Administration at the US Department of Commerce (DOC), where she was the decision maker in literally hundreds of antidumping and countervailing duty cases.  Where appropriate, we are also supported by lawyers from our Government Affairs & Public Policy Group, who have decades of experience working in and with the legislative and executive branches of government. 

Taking the Fight to the Next Level

If proceedings at an administrative level are unsuccessful, we take the fight to the next level.  In many cases, this means an appeal to a relevant court, and in this area too, Steptoe’s experience is unmatched.  Over the last several decades, our firm has successfully represented companies at the US Court of International Trade (CIT), the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC), and the US Supreme Court in some of the most significant trade remedy cases ever heard by US courts:

  • Steptoe won a unanimous victory before the US Supreme Court in USEC Inc. v. Eurodif S.A., the first Supreme Court ruling of a US antidumping proceeding.  The decision marked the successful conclusion of a ten year battle over the correct application of US trade law to imports of enriched uranium from Western Europe.
  • Steptoe achieved a landmark victory for the Canadian Wheat Board before the CAFC, which resulted in the complete refund of illegally collected duties and established that Canadian and Mexican respondents that prevail in NAFTA proceedings are entitled to the same rights that litigants before US courts possess.
  • Over the past decade, we have been involved in more than 300 appellate review proceedings before the CIT and CAFC, covering nearly every issue in US trade remedy cases. 

In some cases, Steptoe turns to the WTO in order to achieve our client’s goals.  Steptoe lawyers have represented a number of governments in proceedings under the WTO Dispute Settlement Understanding, and where we have achieved impressive results.  Indeed, for the past three years, Steptoe was one of only two law firms that received a top-tier ranking from Chambers for its WTO practice.

Solving Customs Problems

While AD/CVD margins are calculated by the DOC, actual AD/CVD duties are collected by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and Steptoe’s Customs team has deep trade remedy experience to help our clients resolve the problems that regularly arise when these two agencies intersect.  We work closely with clients to ensure that information is reported to the DOC according to CBP’s requirements to minimize delay when the goods are entered.  We also advise clients on how to prepare their commercial paperwork to ensure smooth customs clearance of merchandise involved in trade remedy proceedings.  When CPB questions whether goods are subject to an AD/CVD order, we work with CBP to achieve accurate product classification.  Once AD/CVD duties are finally assessed, sometimes years after entries are made, we help ensure that our clients pay only what is owed.

Providing Value to Our Clients

In all of our representations, we are driven by the legal and business objectives of our clients.  Our clients have told Legal 500 that we provide “‘great client care,’ ‘represent good value for money’ and give ‘dependable advice.’”   We make sure that our legal teams are appropriate for the matter, and are both experienced and cost-effective.

We understand that trade remedy litigation can be expensive and burdensome, and is best avoided if possible.  For that reason, we often work with clients to devise strategies to help them avoid litigation altogether.  For example, our firm has developed pricing methodologies that allow companies to set “non-dumped” prices for sales in real time, as they are made.

Noteworthy

  • Ranked, Chambers Global 2010-2014, International Trade/WTO: Global
  • Ranked, Chambers USA 2010-2014, International Trade/WTO: Nationwide
  • #1 Ranking, Chambers Asia-Pacific 2009-2014, International Trade/WTO: Asia-Pacific Region
  • Recommended, Legal 500 US 2007-2014; Litigation: International Trade
  • Named a Law360 International Trade Group of the Year 2010-2013

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