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Chemicals to be more strictly regulated

     You would think that before now there'd be laws in place to protect people from exposure to the ocean of synthetic chemicals continuously introduced into our environment. After all, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has for forty years been entrusted with enforcing the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). But TSCA was always a toothless law and EPA an impotent agency when protecting the public's health from dangerous chemicals. Products containing asbestos, for example, are still imported into the U.S.

     But things just improved.

     The U.S. House of Representatives just passed the Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act, which the U.S. Senate is expected to adopt and President Obama to sign. Among other things, the new bill establishes a safety standard against unreasonable risk of harm from exposure to a chemical under the conditions of use. The standard seeks to protect potentially exposed or susceptible populations regardless of cost. The bill repeals the requirement that the EPA apply the least burdensome means of adequately protecting against unreasonable risk from chemicals. By specified deadlines, the EPA must designate and conduct safety assessments of a certain number of existing chemicals as high-priority. The EPA must prohibit or restrict the manufacture, processing, use, distribution, or disposal of a new chemical, or a significant new use of an existing chemical, if the chemical will not likely meet the safety standard, or additional information is necessary to make a safety determination. If a chemical does not meet the safety standard, the EPA must impose restrictions to assure that it meets the standard, or ban or phase out the chemical when the safety standard cannot be met with the application of those restrictions. The new law preempts state restrictions on high-priority substances and takes effect once the EPA starts a safety assessment.

New Chapter 98 Duty-Free Opportunities


Chapter 98 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States provides exceptions to the duties an importer must pay each time the importer imports an item. But documentation and procedural hurdles can make it hard to qualify. The Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act ("the Act") of 2015 that President Obama recently signed just made qualifying your goods for duty-free status a lot easier.

     The Act revises an existing tariff section and creates a brand new one. The Act amended 9801.00.10, which read "Products of the United States when returned after having been exported, without having been advanced in value or improved in condition by any process of manufacture or other means while abroad."  The "products of the United States" requirement often requires that the importer secure the domestic manufacturer's affidavit. The Act made it easier to qualify by adding "or any other products when returned within 3 years after having been exported."  Now products can qualify for 9801.00.10 duty-free status even if they are not products of the United States.

     The Act also created 9801.00.11, which reads "United States Government property, returned to the United States without having been advanced in value or improved in condition by any means while abroad, entered by the United States Government or a contractor to the United States Government, and certified by the importer as United States
Government property." This new provision should benefit federal agencies and government contractors that import items previously exported.  

    CBP usually issues regulations to interpret Chapter 98 provisions. Regulations would certainly help importers know what documentation and procedures CBP will require from importers under 9801.00.10 and 9801.00.11. However, unlike many of the other laws impacted by the Act, Congress did not specifically authorize or instruct CBP to issue regulations interpreting the two provisions. CBP has not said whether or when it will issue regulations.

Near-Total Elephant Ivory Ban

(excerpted from USFWS​)  

     "In a significant move to protect one of the world’s most cherished species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) today completed a rulemaking process under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to institute a near-total ban on the domestic commercial trade of African elephant ivory. The rule, which fulfills restrictions outlined under President Obama’s 2013 Executive Order on Combating Wildlife Trafficking, substantially limits imports, exports and sales of African elephant ivory across state lines. The rule is the latest of several actions implemented by the Service aimed at reducing the opportunities for wildlife traffickers to trade illegal ivory under the guise of a legal product. 

     “Today’s bold action underscores the United States’ leadership and commitment to ending the scourge of elephant poaching and the tragic impact it’s having on wild populations,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, who serves as co-chair of the President’s Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking. “We hope other nations will act quickly and decisively to stop the flow of blood ivory by implementing similar regulations, which are crucial to ensuring our grandchildren and their children know these iconic species.”

     Wildlife trafficking reduces the economic, social and environmental benefits of wildlife while generating billions of dollars for organized criminal enterprises, contributing to an illegal economy, fueling instability and undermining security. The final rule prohibits most commerce in ivory but makes specific, limited exceptions for certain pre-existing manufactured items -- such as musical instruments, furniture pieces and firearms -- that contain less than 200 grams of ivory and meet other specific criteria. Antiques, as defined under the ESA, are also exempt from the act’s prohibitions. This rule is limited to African elephant ivory and does not further regulate ivory derived from other species, such as walrus, whale and mammoth."

Proof that you shouldn't
violate U.S. export laws

     Two recent cases demonstrate the risks of violating U.S. export laws. 

     In U.S. vs. Parker-Magliorini International, Utah’s federal district court, Central Division, refused to entertain the Plaintiff’s qui tam or False Claims Act lawsuit against companies for allegedly securing export certificates from the USDA to export beef. The Plaintiff claimed that the Defendants falsely represented to the USDA that that the beef was to be exported from U.S. to Costa Rica, Honduras, and Moldova when the true destinations were Japan and China. Japan bans most and China bans all beef from the U.S. In dismissing the man's lawsuit, the court reasoned that that while the Defendants’ action might have been actionable under other laws, the Plaintiff could not sue under the False Claim Act because the USDA issued the export certificates for free. Thus, there was no reward to collect against.

     A  Canadian-Iranian dual citizen and resident of Canada was sentenced to three years in prison for his participation in a conspiracy to purchase high-tech electronic components – some used in the production of rockets and missiles – from American companies for delivery to Iran through Canada.