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ST&R Expands Duty Savings and Supply Chain Expertise

In commerce, a supply chain is a system within organisations, people, activities, information, and resources involved in supplying a product or service to a consumer.

ST&R, announced today the addition of Scott Taylor as a member of the firm and leader of its foreign-trade zones practice area.

He will be part of the firm’s New York office and work with professionals across the country on the intersection of FTZ, international trade, and customs issues.

“United States companies are continuing to innovatively streamline operations and especially lower costs in today’s environment of tariff increases, supply chain disruptions, and uncertain trade policy,” said Lenny Feldman, a member of STR’s Operating Committee. “FTZs are a proven way to address these concerns, and Scott’s legal and operational acumen will heighten our clients’ ability to take advantage of these opportunities.”

“ST&R has long been one of the pre-eminent trade and customs firms in the country, and over the last few years I’ve admired their sharpened focus on assisting businesses to navigate through an increasingly complex and costly environment,” Taylor said. “I’m excited to join this top-notch team and further expand the ways I can serve the trade community.”

Taylor comes to ST&R with more than 20 years’ experience developing and structuring more than 550 FTZ projects, including general-purpose zones and expansions, special-purpose subzones, subzone expansions, alternative site framework applications, boundary modifications, and scope determinations.

He has extensive experience working with officials at the Department of Commerce, United States Customs and Border Protection headquarters and field offices, and congressional offices on Capitol Hill on FTZ issues, and he has negotiated numerous FTZ contracts on behalf of companies.

He also served a constituency of over 500000 as a Kansas City, Missouri City Council Member.

Taylor holds a J.D. from the University of Missouri – Kansas City, an MBA from Rockhurst University, and a B.A. in political science from the University of Kansas.

He is a member of the bar in Missouri and Kansas and before the Court of International Trade.

Trade War with China is impacting Natural Stone Prices

Natural stones are formed in nature with no human’s interference. If a stone is identified as natural, this means that it has not been treated, enhanced, or altered. These gemstones are mined, cut, faceted and finally polished.

The Trump administration has announced this year that the United States will impose a tariff on a massive amount of imported goods from China.

Many of these goods fall into the home improvement category in the American market. Things like stone tile, natural stone slabs, hard surfaces and there is no telling on how high the retail price will go for American consumers as the tariffs continue to stay in place.

This all comes at a time when China has very lax laws on who and how natural stone can be mined, China has a large amount of undeveloped land with natural stone able to be harvested and they are able to meet the growing demand of natural stone seen in American consumers.

One of the largest questions is how much the price of natural stone countertops will rise within the next year. One particular stone concern is granite, and how much it will cost to purchase and install depending on what project you’re working on.

For most questions the answer is to purchase now because the cost of granite is only expected to rise. Using this useful reference, currently, prices for granite countertops start at around $35 per square foot installed, and can go well beyond $100 per square foot for exotic and rare materials.

With trade negotiations continuing as they are now it has been projected that the price per square foot of granite is expected to increase to over $200 per square foot by early 2020.

When purchasing your stone, it is also important to research the seller. Big box retailers that provide countertops won’t be as detail oriented as their local counterparts mainly due to the lack of knowledge of the staff that will be assisting you.

This is because a big box store has a higher turnover of staff and less of a risk to damage their reputation. Also a large retailer will typically have a more limited selection of stone and a more rigid outline of their services, typically a price is set and adhered to in a large retailer.

A local fabricator, more often than not, will negotiate pricing, accommodate specific requests, and handle customers with a higher degree of quality solely based on the fact that they are trying to compete with not only other local business but the large retailers as well.

It would be advantageous to look into your local options and weigh them against large retail stores, depending on what you’re looking to have done one might be more beneficial than the other!

Knowing what you’re paying for will also be beneficial as the price of the stone increases with the tariffs. There are a lot of factors that make up the final price of your countertop including, the cut-outs, edging, backsplash, finish, and colour of the stone.

By limiting the extra details you’re able to keep the overall price lower. The type of sink you install has an effect of the type of cut-out which then has a price on the slab. Edging the counter will have an effect on the final bill as well because the more decorative the final edge look the higher the cost per foot will be! Some styles can rise as high as $10/foot.

Choosing to have a matching stone backsplash obviously will heighten the price of your stone bill, but there are other ways to design a backsplash if this puts your costs too high. Tile is a great alternative or a shorter four or five-inch backsplash can help protect your walls against stains.

The colour of the actual stone can also play a factor in pricing as blue granite is often more expensive than other colours and marble with a more intricate or unique pattern can fetch a higher price.

These are all things that, regardless of the trade war with China, will affect your final budget and should be considered!

These tariffs are not expected to go away anytime soon so if you’re planning a renovation or are in the middle of one currently and have yet to purchase your counters, do it! Having a plan of attack and being in the right place to order them will save you money before the end of the year as natural stone prices continue to rise.

Removing your old counters as a DIY project might be a good idea as well in order to save even more in a pinch. There are many ways to try to circumvent these price increases and DIY-ing as much as possible is one of them, don’t hesitate to consult a professional but remember that most home jobs can be done with a little research!

Trade Relations Championed by Investment Minister Visit

Trade is a basic economic concept involving the buying and selling of goods and services, with compensation paid by a buyer to a seller, or the exchange of goods or services between parties.

International Trade Minister Graham Stuart MP travels to China today, to bolster the trade relationship between the United Kingdom and China post-Brexit.

Beginning his visit in the Chinese capital Beijing, the Minister will meet with key representatives in the Chinese government in the Ministry of Commerce and officials at the Chinese National Development and Reform Commission, to promote the United Kingdom-China economic relationship and champion British business in the region.

While in China, he will meet with dozens of potential investors, hosting roundtables with Chinese life sciences, education, infrastructure and financial services businesses, to promote the strengths of the United Kingdom as an investment destination and encourage stronger trade ties between the two countries.

The visit will see Minister Stuart lead a 200-strong delegation of United Kingdom business leaders representing sectors such as tech, manufacturing, transport and education to the Smart China Expo in Chongqing , where he will champion the United Kingdom’s global leadership in smart technology, and attend the United Kingdom’s flagship pavilion at the Horticulture Expo in Beijing, where the United Kingdom is showcasing its leadership in clean energy and sustainable development.

The 10-day visit comes as trade and investment with China reaches record levels, bilateral trade between the 2 countries has more than doubled over the past 10 years, with the latest statistics showing trade has succeeded the £70bn mark for the first time during the last financial year.

Over the last decade, China has been the 3rd biggest contributor to the overall increase in British exports, beaten only by Germany and the United States.

The Minister’s visit follows on from the United Kingdom-China 10th Economic and Financial Dialogue which took place in London in June this year.

The EFD saw the former Chancellor, Philip Hammond, and Chinese Vice Premier, Hu Chunhua, launch the London-Shanghai Stock Connect UK, which allowed listed companies to sell their shares in China for the first time, alongside the announcement of £500 million worth of commercial deals and partnerships.

Minister Stuart’s visit is expected to secure a number of commercial deals and new partnerships between British and Chinese businesses.

European Union and Mercosur Reach Trade Agreement

The European Union is the first major partner to strike a trade pact with Mercosur, a bloc comprising Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. The agreement concluded today will cover a population of 780 million and cement the close political and economic relations between the European Union and Mercosur countries.

It represents a clear commitment from both regions to rules based international trade and will give European companies an important head start into a market with an enormous economic potential. It will anchor important economic reforms and modernisation undergoing in Mercosur countries.

The agreement upholds the highest standards of food safety and consumer protection, as well as the precautionary principle for food safety and environmental rules and contains specific commitments on labour rights and environmental protection, including the implementation of the Paris climate agreement and related enforcement rules.

Mercosur countries will also put in place legal guarantees protecting from imitation 357 high-quality European food and drink products recognised as Geographical Indications, such as Tiroler Speck, Fromage de Herve, Münchener Bier, Comté, Prosciutto di Parma, Polska Wódka, Queijo S. Jorge, Tokaji or Jabugo.

The agreement will open up new business opportunities in Mercosur for European Union companies selling under government contracts, and to service suppliers in the information technology, telecommunications and transport sectors, among others.

It will simplify border checks, cut red tape and limit the use of export taxes by Mercosur countries. Smaller companies on both sides will also benefit thanks to a new online platform providing easy access to all relevant information.

While delivering significant economic benefits, the agreement also promotes high standards. The European Union and Mercosur commit to effectively implement the Paris Climate Agreement. A dedicated sustainable development chapter will cover issues such as sustainable management and conservation of forests, respect for labour rights and promotion of responsible business conduct.

It also offers civil society organisations an active role to overview the implementation of the agreement, including any human rights, social or environmental concerns. The agreement will also provide for a new forum to work closely together on a more sustainable approach to agriculture and, as part of the political dialogue under the Association Agreement, address the rights of indigenous communities.

The agreement also safeguards the European Union and Mercosur’s right to regulate in the public interest and preserves the right to organise public services in the way they consider appropriate.

European Union food safety standards will remain unchanged and all imports will have to comply with the European Union’s rigorous standards, as is the case today. The agreed food safety, and animal and plant health provisions will reinforce cooperation with the authorities of the partner countries and speed up the flow of information about any potential risks through a more direct and efficient information and notification system. In this way, the agreement will increase our efficiency in ensuring the safety of the products traded between the European Union and Mercosur countries.

The trade agreement reached today is part of a comprehensive new Association Agreement under negotiation between the European Union and Mercosur countries. It is composed of a political and cooperation pillar – on which negotiators already reached a general agreement in June 2018 in Montevideo – and the trade pillar.

Beyond trade, the agreement will enhance political dialogue and increase cooperation in areas such as migration, digital economy, research and education, human rights, including the rights of indigenous people, corporate and social responsibility, environment protection, ocean governance, as well as fight against terrorism, money laundering and cybercrime. It will also offer increased possibilities for cooperation at multilateral level.

The Association Agreement will complete the network of Association Agreements in the Americas and consolidate the relations with the important partners in the region, supporting European Union positions on many global issues.

How Overseas Export Growth Can Enhance Your Business

An export in international trade is a good produced in one country that is sold into another country or a service provided in one country for a national or resident of another country. The seller of such goods or the service provider is an exporter; the foreign buyer is an importer.

Expanding overseas can play a critical role in the prosperity of many mid-market companies, so it’s no surprise that 37% of businesses expect to increase exporting in the coming year.

And if companies are not considering overseas growth, they can be sure their competitors will be.

Breaking New Ground

One company that is already looking at exporting well beyond Europe’s shores is Norfolk-based Centurion, which has been making protective head gear, including helmets and face screens, since the nineteenth century. To safeguard its future, Chief Executive Officer Jeff Ward led the business through a total rebranding and restructure when he joined three years ago.

Despite being one of the leading players in its sector, Ward says Centurion lacked visibility and definition in the market. “We were too vague about our identity, about what made us stand out from our competitors. Starting from scratch and looking at every aspect of our business helped us focus our attention on who we were and on our goals – the most vital of which was expanding overseas.”

Achieving Overseas Growth

Ward worked with our advisers on several aspects of Centurion’s restart, including raising its profile locally, optimising its R&D tax relief and, more recently, overseas growth.

Over the past year, its international sales have grown by 30% – from £6 million to £9 million – and Ward expects this to continue in 2019, mainly in the Middle East and the United States, where the company has a new partnership.

Repositioning itself in both the domestic and international marketplace was key to Centurion’s recent growth. “Exposure, perception and connections are vital when you are trying to expand,” says Ward. “Grant Thornton elevated our profile, initially on a local level by showcasing our company and its success as one of the top 100 businesses in Norfolk, and then by advising on our overseas growth.

These are still early days, but I’m happy with the opportunities that are opening up. I’m excited about the partnerships we’ve established and hope that more will follow this year.”