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Current Developments in U.S. Law and Policy

The most important current development in U.S. export controls concerns the efforts to relax restrictions on the exportation of commercial satellites (comsats). In several recent issues the Washington Trade Report has examined the Obama administration's proposal to move comsats from the strict U.S. Munitions List to the more business-friendly Commerce Control List, a step that has thus far received the blessing of the House of Representatives but is still pending action  —  and still facing determined opposition in the Senate.

In the April 9 WTR (Vol.28 No.12) we examined in depth the U.S. reciprocity policy, especially the latest crop of repoprts on foreign laws and policies that may violate U.S. trade rights.These reports take on more meaning with the emphasis that the Obama administration places on trade enforcement. The administrationís reports this go-around appear to aim for a politically delicate balance in an election year. The White House wants on the one hand to show how its policies have contributed to the goal of doubling exports over the next five years, and hence its reports highlight progress achieved with some partners over the past year. It wants on the other hand to step up the pressure on other partners, and to be seen doing so by the electorate. The reports therefore place even greater emphasis on the administrationís determination to press hard for action in the coming months from other partners, above all from China.

:: Homeland Security and Export Controls :: U.S. Sanctions and Foreign Policy Laws :: Health, Safety & Environment

The SAFE Port Act is the most significant security law on the import side, especially the provisions on the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) and container security (including the 100% screening requirement). Among the many other topics dealt with in the law are the security of U.S. seaports, foreign ports, and the post-incident resumption of trade.

Other import-security laws deal with safe containers for international cargo and maritime security.

Most other laws relating to trade and security are focused principally or exclusively on the export side of the equation. Several laws license, prohibit, or otherwise control exports of arms and militarily critical goods, especially the following:

The Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917 (and still in effect) is the original foreign policy-related trade control law.

Although the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act aimed to reduce the level of sanctions in U.S. policy, several countries remain subject to various actual or contingent forms of import and/or export restrictions. See also the anti-boycott law (part of the Export Administration Act of 1979).

The Jackson-Vanik amendment to the Trade Act of 1974 conditions normal trade relations on certain countries' freedom-of-emigration practices.

Several provisions of U.S. law are explicitly or implicitly aimed at China. They include:

Other laws on sanctions and related matters include the following:

See also the Exon-Florio Amendment providing for reviews of certain investments and a related measure prohibiting investment in U.S. defense contractors by foreign governments.

The main laws regarding import and export compliance for reasons other than homeland security and foreign policy are: