Customs Law

As long as there has been trade, there have been differences of opinion among those in trade and the government agencies that seek to control trade within their territories.

U.S. Customs and Trade Law includes any provision of the Tariff Act of 1930, as amended, including the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States, or the Customs Regulations, or any provision contained in other legislation including the navigation laws, regulations, treaties, orders, proclamations, or other agreements administered by the Customs Service.

Challenges to agency actions under these laws arise when goods are excluded from importation, are not allowed preferential treatment under treaties such The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), when drawback (refunds) are refused, when penalties and fines are assessed, and when other adverse government agency actions occur. In general, these challenges are initially handled administratively (outside the courts), may become litigated at the U.S. Court of International Trade, and eventually may be litigated the U.S. federal courts.

Often there is a choice of forum, and sometimes petitions can be filed simultaneously in different forums. Trade litigation of Customs' determinations in antidumping and countervailing duty cases, for instance, can be brought before the World Trade Organization (WTO) or before a binational panel under Chapter 19 of NAFTA, as well as before the courts.

On the following pages, you will find brief descriptions of the various forums and avenues of appeal in U.S. customs law.


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