Around town …

Every now and then, usually when I post about it,  I receive critical e-mail from folks about my stance on export control reform and why massive reforms of the system should be made in a piecemeal fashion.  One of the reasons for this stance is that “reform” (updating a more accurate term) of the processes and systems takes place on an ongoing basis.   For example this week, the DDTC released updated electronic agreement guidelines.  This update was not done in a vacuum, but with input from many stakeholders including the private sector.   Be careful when waving the reform talisman, it may make a sometimes confusing and inefficient process much more complex and difficult to comply with for the long-term.

As posted earlier this week, the Treasury Department, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) this week published guidance related to the shipment of spare parts for medical devices initially exported pursuant to a Trade Sanctions Reform Act (TSRA) license.  It also addresses what exporters need to do when medical devices breaks and need to be returned for repair.

Over at the Heritage Foundation,  James Phillips published a WebMemo that is worth a read, Time for Tougher Sanctions on Iran’s Terrorists Regime.  At this juncture, sanctions may be too little too late to effectuate meaningful “behavior modification” from state sponsor of terrorism Iran, but the effort needs doing to ensure all potential remedies are exhausted before more robust means are pursued.   While not addressed by the Heritage post, one way to make Iran sanctions more effective would be to target Iran’s lack of capacity to refine oil.  To that end, focus on the Western Hemisphere and close the tap by imposing sanctions on a primary refiner, Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela. 

While on the subject of Iran, the Senate Banking Committee this week held a hearing on Tuesday that included discussion of economic sanctions and more export controls toward state sponsor of terrorism Iran.  Chairman Dodd, as he has said in prior hearings, stated that a bill could pass in the near future that would impose ” … penalties on companies that support Iran’s import of refined petroleum products or bolstering its domestic capacity,”  authorize state and local governments to divest from companies involved in critical business with Iran,  as well as “help cut off Iran’s access to the most sensitive and advanced technology available, through tougher export controls on these  products sent to Iran through its black market trading partners.”   Statements and hearing transcript available, here.

The Washington Examiner reports this week that “former Sen. John Warner, R-Va., is lobbying on behalf of foreign and U.S. satellite operators to loosen U.S. export controls aimed at preventing the Chinese military from copying American technology and potentially using it to make weapons.”  Warner is working with a coalition and stated that the coalition’s aim is to push to expand U.S. launch opportunities of commercial satellites, calling China and the export controls, “just a tangential issue.”   While clarifying and targeted reforms in this area are needed, China and export controls are not “tangential,” but rather the core of the debate and to be effective in the long-term (i.e., ensure that America remains the global leader in this arena, and related areas such as civilian space travel), you need to address China and export controls head on.   It can be done.

Finally, Orbitz continues to lobby for easing of U.S. travel restrictions to Cuba by securing Congressional approval of the Freedom to Travel Act.  According to a recent article published by the left of center NGO COHA, “[t]he airline industry is lobbying hard for the passage of this bill as well, with the popular travel website Orbitz circulating an online petition that has received over 95,000 signatures.”   This summer, I penned an item on this issue, “Orbitz As Proxy for State Sponsor of Terrorism Cuba?“.   The easing of travel restrictions is one of the primary goals of the Cuban regime.  It has invested decades of work for this issue because it represents a gold mine for the Communist Party’s Central Committee.  One hopes that Orbitz, and the other companies that are supporting this effort, are not doing so in conjunction with the Cuban regime.  An OFAC sanctions violations could put a costly and politically embarrassing pox on the effort.  The sanctions regulations, among other things, prohibit any person subject to U.S. jurisdiction from dealing inany property in which Cuba or a Cuban national has an interest and transacting business with specially designated nationals (SDNs).

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