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August 20 2012 Issue

Monday, August 20, 2012
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

U.S.-Panama FTA Implementation Process Moves Forward

The Panamanian government recently unveiled four bills that must be approved by the National Assembly in order to move the U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement implementation process one step closer to a successful conclusion. The bills involve various intellectual property rights issues as well as certain additional provisions that are required to implement the FTA. One of the bills seeks to strengthen and improve IPR protection in Panama by adopting enhanced enforcement measures (including civil and administrative penalties and border measures) and new staff training and infrastructure modernization procedures. A second bill deals with copyright protection issues while the third involves certain amendments to the plant variety protection provisions of Law 23 of 1997. A press release issued by President Ricardo Martinelli’s office indicates that the Panamanian government expects the FTA to enter into force in October. Panamanian authorities have already taken a number of regulatory actions related to the FTA’s implementation although it is uncertain what, if any, additional action is required from Panama to bring the deal into force.

Baucus to Discuss TPP with Japanese and New Zealand Officials

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) is leading a delegation to New Zealand and Japan to discuss key issues surrounding the ongoing negotiations on a Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. Baucus will first visit New Zealand where he will discuss with Prime Minister John Key and Trade Minister Tim Groser the progress of the TPP negotiations and pursue trade opportunities for U.S. companies. In Japan, Baucus will meet with Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba and Economic and Trade Minister Yukido Edano to seek expanded access for U.S. exports. The senior senator from Montana will also discuss the possibility of Japan joining the TPP talks in the future. Baucus has said that any country wishing to join the negotiations must be ready to quickly accept the TPP’s high-standard commitments. 

Japan is the fourth largest market for U.S. merchandise exports with total shipments of $61.4 billion in 2011, up 10.2% from $55.7 billion in 2010. New Zealand is the 47th largest destination for U.S. merchandise exports with total shipments of $3.4 billion last year.

CBP Highlights Recent Enforcement Action Involving Fashion Footwear

U.S. Customs and Border Protection recently conducted an enforcement operation of relevance to the footwear sector as part of an ongoing effort to prevent the importation of merchandise that violates U.S. intellectual property rights. Specifically, CBP announced on Aug. 16 that import specialists at the Los Angeles/Long Beach seaport seized for a trademark violation a total of five shipments arriving from China that contained 20,457 pairs of ladies fashion footwear. The seized footwear had a domestic value of $57,490 and an estimated manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $18 million. Todd C. Owen, director of field operations in Los Angeles, indicated that this action shows that “CBP maintains an aggressive and proactive posture on intercepting shipments containing counterfeit and pirated items.” 

CBP notes that in fiscal year 2011 there were 1,020 trade seizures with a domestic value exceeding $37 million at the Los Angeles/Long Beach seaport complex. This represents an 18% increase in the number of seizures from fiscal year 2010.

Another Executive Pleads Guilty for Price Fixing Activities Involving Automobile Parts

The Department of Justice announced Aug. 16 that an executive of a Japanese company has agreed to plead guilty for his involvement in a conspiracy to fix the prices of panel clusters (also known as meters) installed in cars sold in the United States and elsewhere. This brings to 11 the number of executives, along with seven companies, that have been charged in the DOJ’s ongoing antitrust investigation of the auto parts industry. Seven companies have already pleaded guilty and been sentenced to pay a total of more than $790 million in criminal fines. In addition, seven individuals have been sentenced to criminal fines and jail sentences ranging from a year and a day to two years each. The executive involved in the case at hand has agreed to serve 14 months in a U.S. prison, pay a $20,000 criminal fine and cooperate with the DOJ’s investigation.

Annual Hearing on China’s Compliance with WTO Commitments

The interagency Trade Policy Staff Committee has announced its intention to conduct a hearing and seek public comments on China’s compliance with its WTO commitments. This investigation will cover areas such as trading rights, import regulation (e.g., tariffs, tariff-rate quotas, quotas and import licenses), export regulation, internal policies affecting trade (e.g., subsidies, standards and technical regulations, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, government procurement, trade-related investment measures, and taxes and charges levied on imports and exports), intellectual property rights and IPR enforcement, services, rule of law issues (e.g., transparency, judicial review, uniform administration of laws and regulations and status of legal reform), and other WTO commitments. In addition, given the U.S. view that China should be held accountable as a full participant in, and beneficiary of, the international trading system, the TPSC is asking parties to identify any unresolved compliance issues that warrant review and evaluation by USTR’s China Enforcement Task Force.

The hearing will be held Oct. 3 in Washington, D.C. Persons wishing to testify at the hearing must provide written notification of their intention, as well as a copy of their testimony, by noon on Sep. 19. Written comments must be submitted by noon on Sept. 24.

AD/CV Notices: Scope Rulings, Garment Hangers

Agency: ITA.
Commodity: Various products.
Country: Various countries.
Nature of Notice: Scope rulings completed between Jan. 1 and Mar. 31, 2012.
Details: The ITA has issued a list of scope rulings it completed between Jan. 1 and Mar. 31, 2012. Scope issues typically arise in cases where the descriptions of subject merchandise contained in the ITA’s determinations are ambiguous. It is also possible that, as technology evolves and new products are created, these new products may fall outside the scope of the order.

Agency: ITC.
Commodity: Steel wire garment hangers.
Country: Taiwan and Vietnam.
Nature of Notice: Scheduling of final phase of AD and CV investigations.
Details: The ITC will hold a hearing in connection with the final phase of these investigations on Oct. 24. Pre-hearing briefs and requests to appear at the hearing must be filed by Oct. 16, the pre-hearing conference will be held Oct. 18, and post-hearing briefs are due by Oct. 31.

Ex-Im Bank Seeks Comments on Financing for Certain Exports to Saudi Arabia

The Export-Import Bank of the United States is seeking comments by Sept. 14 regarding an application for final commitment for a long-term loan or financial guarantee of $100 million. The transaction is intended to support the export of U.S. services and equipment to Saudi Arabia and will be used for the design and construction of a petrochemical complex. To the extent that Ex-Im Bank is reasonably aware, the item(s) being exported may be used to produce exports or provide services in competition with the exportation of goods or provision of services by a U.S. industry.

Commercial Gauger Approved

CBP has announced that effective May 2, 2012, Saybolt LP of Gonzales, Louisiana, has been approved to gauge petroleum and petroleum products, organic chemicals and vegetable oils for customs purposes. A complete listing of CBP approved gaugers and accredited laboratories is available here.

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