Impact of U.S. Government Shutdown on Trade

September 29, 2023

If Congress fails to approve new spending for federal agencies by 11:59PM on September 30, a federal government shutdown and the curtailment of non-essential activities will occur. Here is what may occur in trade and customs related government functions:

The Department of Commerce Office of Enforcement & Compliance will suspend antidumping and countervailing duty proceedings, resulting in:

  • tolling of deadlines for ongoing AD/CVD investigations by the number of days the shutdown continues.
  • delayed initiation of new AD/CVD investigations based on petitions recently filed.
  • postponed determinations for preliminary and final AD/CVD investigations.
  • extended timelines for administrative and sunset reviews.

Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security will likely suspend processing of new or existing requests for export licenses, although enforcement activities will continue. It is also expected that BIS may suspend the Section 232 product exclusion process for tariffs on steel and aluminum.

Commerce’s Industry Monitoring and Analysis Unit will shut down the import licensing system, which under normal circumstances, requires active engagement by the unit to issue licenses. Commerce states that it will coordinate with CBP, but notes that a lack of licenses will impact imports of steel and aluminum.

The U.S. International Trade Commission is expected to keep operating using carryover funding but may need to cease operations when such funding expires. Because the Commission’s Tariff Act deadlines are linked to Commerce’s statutory deadlines, Commerce’s tolling will likely result in changes to schedules for preliminary and final phases of original AD/CVD investigations as well as adequacy and final phases of five year “sunset” reviews.

Customs & Border Protection is expected to continue issuing Customs broker licenses, permits, and filer codes, but will likely suspend updates to the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE), resulting in a lag to tariff changes. Review of Enforce and Protect Act and electronic allegations of trade fraud will be halted during any lapse in appropriations.

The Directorate of Defense Trade Controls is expected to curtail services including processing license requests, advisory opinions, and retransfers except for those directly related to military, humanitarian aid, or emergency situations.

The Office of Foreign Assets Control will continue its sanctions enforcement activities, but review of license applications may be suspended.

The Office of the United States Trade Representative will continue to perform necessary functions, including appearing in World Trade Organization (WTO) disputes and engaging in economically important trade negotiations, and enforcement of high-priority multilateral trade agreements where failure to engage would place significant disadvantages on American workers, farmers, ranchers, and businesses. USTR will maintain a limited number of employees to be available each day based on the highest priority initiatives/activities at the time as deemed essential.

The Court of International Trade will remain open and government lawyers from the Department of Justice, Department of Commerce, and U.S. International Trade Commission will be required to participate as essential “non-paid” employees. The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit will also maintain continuity in operations.

Members of Congress will continue to work, and be paid, during the shutdown, but some staffers may be furloughed or be working without pay until the shutdown ends. Expect legislative activity to be delayed.

Additional detailed guidance is available here for Commerce, Department of Homeland Security, United States Trade Representative, and other Executive Branch agencies and offices.