2020 Was a Year
I am often amused when someone says "It goes without saying . . ." and then goes ahead and says it anyway. Nevertheless, I am going to do that very thing.
It goes without saying that 2020 was a strange year. For many, it was tragic and sad. The world had to cope with COVID-19 and the resulting deaths, illnesses, isolation, and economic fallout. Some also experienced terrible property loss and environmental damage from wildfires and other natural disasters. All of that happened during the least civil time in American politics in my memory and ongoing culture clashes along the seams in the American population including education levels, rural versus urban, and racial and religious groups.
For the trade community, the last four years have been unlike any we can remember. You have faced threats for a unilateral withdrawal from NAFTA, Section 232 duties on steel and aluminum, Section 301 duties on products from China, and the too-fast transition to the the U.S.-Mexico-United States Free Trade Agreement. Much of that was not done smoothly; implementation dates and duty rates changed rapidly. The exclusion process for both 232 and 301 were opaque and needlessly complex. Through it all, you worked to maintain compliance and legally maximize the value in your supply chains. On the export side, there were numerous efforts to restrict commerce with a particular focus on China. All in, it was an exciting and stressful time to be a trade professional.
All of which is a partial explanation for why this blog has been so quiet this year. Like everyone in the field, I have been busy. 2020 may have been my most professionally hectic year since I entered private practice in 1991. When there was time to write a blog post, it was hard to find the motivation. More often, a tweet or short post on my firm website was all I could muster.
But, we are a few hours away from 2021 and a few weeks away from a new administration. While I expect the Biden administration to remain tough on China and to continue to use trade as leverage for other policy objectives, I look forward to less chaos in the implementation. That means I also look forward to a more productive year on the blog.
For those of you who are still here and those who may find this, I wish you all a healthy, productive, and more peaceful trade environment in 2021.