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March 4, 2019

From Tweet to Tariff: How Customs Changes are Actually Made

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Twitter is often cited as a source for updates about regulatory changes in the U.S.- China trade war, but it should come as no surprise that Twitter is not actually an official medium for tariff communications. In reality, for any changes to the current Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) and related duty rates to take effect, an official process must be executed.

So, how does an initial tweet become an enacted tariff?

1. The President issues a formal Proclamation President Trump first needs to issue a Presidential Proclamation, a dated and numbered letter signed by the president. President Trump issued 147 proclamations in 2018, and 61 so far in 2019 as of May.

2. The Proclamation is published in the Federal Register The Presidential Proclamation is then sent to the Administrative Committee of the Federal Register, a department under the legislative branch of government. This department holds the official journal of all actions taken. The Proclamation is then assigned a date and a Federal Register number and published in the next daily issue.

3. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) sends an update message Once the Proclamation has been published in the Federal Register, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will send a Cargo Systems Messaging Service (CSMS) message to their trade partners, and others signed up for their email notifications. This message states that updates have been made to the CBP tariff database and that customs brokers should query this new data to update their brokerage entry filing software.

4. Brokers update their filing software Brokers must update the HTS database in their software before they can file entries with the new HTS and duty rates.

Want to keep up on tariff-related news, from 280-character presidential missives to ongoing trade negotiations and effects on global industries? Follow Tariff Insider, our round-up of trade war coverage. And, if any official changes are made to the HTS or duty rates, we’ll cover it there, too.

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