Background - Practices (Details)



Crowell & Moring’s Customs practice assists some of the world’s largest corporations, providing advice and counsel in every substantive area of customs law, administrative proceedings, audits, investigations, litigation, public policy and global customs disputes. We represent a diverse group of clients and industries and take a multi-disciplinary approach to customs issues, combining legal, economic and public policy experience as needed to obtain the best results for clients.

Customs Counseling. Crowell & Moring assists businesses with everything from the day-to-day regulatory counseling to crisis management, and helps companies structure their operations to reduce costs and delays. Our advice and experience covers all substantive customs areas, such as:

  • Entry process;
  • Classification (including classification of emerging technology and tariff engineering to optimize duty rates);
  • Valuation (including related party transactions/transfer pricing, royalties and licensing agreements, first sale for export valuation, reference pricing matters);
  • Country of origin and marking;
  • Admissibility, quotas and other import restrictions;
  • Current and evolving bilateral and multilateral trade agreements (e.g., NAFTA, DR-CAFTA, KORUS, U.S.-Singapore FTA, Trans-Pacific Partnership, Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, etc.);
  • Preferential trade programs (e.g., General System of Preferences, U.S. Goods Returned, Civil Aircraft Agreement, etc.);
  • Special tariff programs (e.g., Special K, Temporary Importation under Bond, Government Sales, Miscellaneous Tariff Provisions and American Goods Returned);
  • Duty drawback and bonded warehouses;
  • Foreign trade zones;
  • Jones Act/coastwise trade;
  • C-TPAT and cargo security;
  • Importer self-assessment, Trusted Trader, and import safety and compliance programs;
  • CBP Centers of Excellence (CEEs), Automated Commercial Environment (ACE), and other CBP programs;
  • CBP administration of partner governmental agency regulatory requirements, including FDA, USDA, FCC, EPA, CPSC, ATF, TTB, DOT, FAA, OFAC, DOC, and ITC.

Administrative Proceedings. Companies that import products seek certainty in their transactions, or may dispute attempts by CBP to impose additional duties or other burdensome import requirements. Crowell & Moring helps clients obtain favorable outcomes in a variety of proceedings before CBP, including: binding ruling requests, internal advice requests, responses to requests for information (CF 28s) and rate advance notices (CF 29s), requests for redelivery, protests, and other administrative proceedings handled by CBP. These proceeding may be handled at the local port level or in Washington, D.C. with CBP headquarters officials, who handle complex legal and policy matters.

Audits and Enforcement Actions. In tough economic times, CBP and other global customs authorities have stepped up auditing and enforcement efforts. Crowell & Moring attorneys help clients prepare for focused assessment audits, quick responses audits, NAFTA verifications and other FTA verifications before CBP as well as with foreign customs authorities. CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) often use more draconian enforcement actions, such as detentions, seizures, criminal and civil penalties, and liquidated damages claims. Crowell & Moring customs professionals have successfully defended clients in these actions securing the release of seized merchandise and complete cancellation of penalty claims.

Litigation and Public Policy.  A particular strength of Crowell & Moring’s practice is successful litigation against customs in the Court of International Trade (CIT) and the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. We vigorously defend our clients’ interests and pursue their rights when litigation is necessary to achieve the desired result. Our litigation success has proven a strong tool in negotiating with customs at the administrative level. While Crowell & Moring attorneys have the experience to litigate customs matters, we understand that litigation is not always the best solution to resolving our clients’ customs problems. Many of our greatest successes for clients have been achieved through effective public policy representation before the key administrative and Congressional offices that influence or dictate customs policy and law.

Global Duty Recovery. As businesses struggle to increase speed to market and satisfy compliance and security concerns, it is often impossible for even the most sophisticated business to fully explore and take advantage of duty savings opportunities. Crowell & Moring has a dedicated team, with diverse experience, that helps businesses reduce duty costs and receive duty refunds in the U.S. and around the world. We employ a unique combination of data analysis and creative solutions to obtain results in a way that minimizes upfront costs and the administrative burden on our clients’ personnel. Our global duty recovery efforts have provided millions of dollars in duty refunds and savings to our clients.

Global Trade Disputes. Customs disputes and enforcement are not a uniquely U.S. phenomenon – many of our clients face customs disputes in other countries as well. These matters include enforcement and interpretation of FTAs, or matters that may be resolved through WTO or World Customs Organization dispute settlement proceedings. Crowell & Moring lawyers and non-lawyer professionals have worked closely with U.S. and foreign governments to secure favorable decisions for our clients in such matters. We have helped our clients to resolve issues in matters before numerous foreign customs services in the EU, Asia, North and South America. To resolve global trade disputes, we also work closely with the non-lawyer professionals of C&M International, many of whom were trade officials representing the U.S. and other countries.

Representative Matters

  • Assisted a global manufacturer realize millions of dollars in duty refunds and duty savings based on an innovative interpretation of the NAFTA rules of origin related to U.S. exports of home appliances.
  • Assisted a global producer of production equipment and vehicles with establishment of foreign trade zones allowing for over $1 million per year in total cost savings.
  • Obtained favorable customs valuation decisions in the North American, EU, and Asian markets, which resulted in substantial duty savings in related party and multi-party transactions.
  • Obtained U.S. legislation providing permanent and temporary tariff relief for high tech, chemical, plastic, agricultural, pharmaceutical, food, home appliance, and other industries securing over $80 million in duty savings.
  • Obtained recovery of duty refunds in the EU and U.S. by challenging the assessment of antidumping and countervailing duties on chemical, steel, and agricultural productions.
  • Challenged attempts to put agricultural and other products on U.S. and EU safeguard duty retaliation lists, which resulted in millions in duty savings and avoidance of additional duties.
  • Represented a top 10 U.S. importer in criminal and civil penalty proceedings resulting in a declination of prosecution after grand jury indictment, and cancellation of penalty claims.
  • Counseled importers and exports on valuation issues, including intercompany transfer pricing, first sale rule, agency agreement, royalties, license fees, and assists.
  • Advised clients on customs enforcement of intellectual property rights, including copyright and trademark registration, and section 337 exclusion orders.
  • Representation of a California producer of aerospace fasteners in litigation brought by the Customs Service alleging fraudulent importations.