As we reach the one-year pandemic mark here in the US, I’d like to congratulate you all on the ways that you’ve approached an unstable international trade environment. There were lots of curveballs thrown at us amidst an unprecedented disruption to the mechanics of most economies. There are additional hurdles in front of us, but recovery appears to be possible.
In my many conversations with clients, I hear that work from home has been mostly successful from a nuts and bolts perspective. New technology and passionate staff that can work independently have been the driving forces of that success. Questions remain surrounding how we juggle competing family responsibilities, long-distance training, team building, and culture, but overall I see the resiliency of the industry.
On the COVID-19 front, we are seeing medical supplies moving internationally more quickly and freely to combat the virus. Stretched supply chains got some help from governments as trade barriers surrounding these products were relaxed. A welcome relief.
Section 301 China duty recoveries here in the US in 2020 helped keep many companies solvent. We’ve been busy helping importers aggressively and compliantly pursue millions in refunds, and we revel in their great success. Since many of the Section 301 exclusions have been extended, there is still money out there to be recovered. Be sure to stay alert to Section 301 changes in 2021.
The new US-Mexico-Canada (USMCA, CUSMA, T-MEC) free trade agreement was successfully implemented, strengthening environmental and labor regulations. The agreement updated intellectual property protections that authorities hope will spur research and development in the industrial and pharmaceutical sectors. There are still some minor issues to resolve, but all in all a success so far.
For my European brethren, a great deal of work was put into preparing and then executing their Brexit plans in the midst of the pandemic. That was certainly no easy feat in the best of times, let alone doing it in a work from home environment for many.
Unfortunately, we’ve also had some significant job losses, particularly in the retail and restaurant industries. Some firms have permanently closed their doors with that market share absorbed by competitors. Businesses and governments have scrambled to take care of people as best they can. I suspect a long recovery but with many opportunities for international trade.
These are still tough times but I hope that we’ll begin to turn the corner in the coming months.
I wish you good health, renewed family gatherings, and a successful 2021.