Saturday, October 29, 2005
Of course, the fact that caviar comes from this fish, might make it less appealing. There is a lovely description of the production process here. It might be more than you want to know that the fish is stunned once by a blow to the head with a wooden club, then stunned again before it is cut open.
This ban also covers personal importations with arriving passengers. First, the Concorde is put out of service. Now some beluga caviar is banned. What's next; a tax on polo ponies?
Monday, October 24, 2005
One of the current trade facilitation projects is the Periodic Monthly Statement under the Automated Commercial Environment. The Periodic Monthly Statement (which is still technically a test program) lets participating importers identify entries and pay Customs for them by the 15th business day of the following month. This creates an interest free loan of up to 45 days for importers. It also simplifies recordkeeping and allows importers to create national or port summaries of activity.
Until recently, the only way importers could take advantage of the Periodic Monthly Statement was to have an ACE Portal account. Customs has now announced that certified C-TPAT members who are not current ACE accounts will automatically be established as ACE Non-Portal Accounts. This will make certified C-TPAT members eligible to participate in PMS. Non-C-TPAT members can also choose to participate. The importer needs an appropriate bond and their broker needs to be a portal participant.
This seems to be a good move in that it really does provide a benefit to importers and will not have a negative impact on cargo security because it only defers the payment of duties and fees. So, Customs should be given credit for expanding this test program.
But, it does not address the real underlying inefficiency: the entry. Why is it that Customs continues to work from a business model that requires each and every transaction to be the subject of separate documentation? It is as if you had to file a tax return every pay day. The IRS doesn't work that way and there is no intrinsic reason why Customs could not simplify entry reporting while increasing the importers' obligations to periodically report imports and the associated liability. Some sort of cargo manifest report of arriving shipments should be enough to match up to a subsequent quarterly report of duty and fee liability.
Of course, there is a problem with this pie-in-the-sky idea: Congress. Right now, importers are statutorily required to file entries and Customs is, therefore, required to accept them. And, many compliance activities are triggered by entry dates and the corresponding liquidation dates. But, those are details. If Congress wants to help facilitate trade, it should take another look at the continued rationale for the entry. It is clear that Customs is inching away from the all important entry and liquidation. That is clear from the fact that there are now Supplemental Information Letters, Reconciliation, and now the expanded Periodic Monthly Statement. Let's face it, the entry as we know it is on life support and someone needs to pull the plug.
Thursday, October 20, 2005
- Agricultural market access (with a limited emphasis on the elimination of subsidies)
- Industrial products market access
- Trade facilitation
There are lots of competing interests in these talks. The most obvious friction results from the facts that the developing world's agenda does not always match up to the desires of the developed world. There are also a lot of industrial sectors that come into conflict. For every industry willing to trade lower tariffs for access to foreign markets, there is another legitimately seeking to maintain tariffs to protect market share, jobs, capital investment, etc. At the same time, there are non-governmental groups seeking to ensure that trade negotiations support the environment, labor interests, human rights, and other interests. And, in the past few years, there have been vocal groups opposed to globalization as a concept.
Balancing all this is hard enough without the confusing fact every group of countries taking a position seems to become known as the G-something. There is the G8 (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, U.K., and the U.S.) group of industrialized countries. Recently, the G20 has been active (along with Australia) in pushing for market access in agricultural goods. There is also a G4 (India, Germany, Japan, and Brazil) looking for membership in the U.N. Security Council. And now comes the G33 group of developing countries active in the WTO agriculture negotiations. Oddly, there is an 11-member G10 (Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, the United
Kingdom and the United States) which issued an impressive report on financial consolidation. This may or may not be the same G10 that just got the support of Norway on on agricultural duty reductions. Then there is the Quad Group consisting of the U.S., Canada, Japan, and the EU.
I think people who pull together these groups need to be more creative in naming them. I suggest following the lead of college sports where the number of members is tacked on to something other than the letter G. There is, for example, the Pacific-10, Atlantic-10, and my personal favorite, the Big-10. Of course, the fact that the Big-10 consists of eleven schools does not do much for my effort to avoid confusion.
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
It looks like we might have CAFTA by January 1, 2006. The USTR announced that
Statement of USTR Spokesperson Neena Moorjani Regarding Nicaragua’s Passage of CAFTA-DR
10/11/2005“We congratulate the Nicaraguan government for passing the Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement.
“They now join
"We have met with representatives of the CAFTA-DR governments recently and we are working towards a target date of January 1, 2006, for implementing this agreement.
“This agreement levels the playing field for American workers, farmers and businesses, expands choices for consumers and strengthens democracies with our neighbors.”
Sunday, October 09, 2005
P is the runner I turned on to Gu when he decided to train for his first marathon. I think that makes me kind of a legal sugar pusher. He finished today at about 4 hours, 34 minutes. For 26.2 miles, that is something to be proud of.
For those of you who don't know, Gu is a concentrated carbohydrate gel. When competing in endurance events, Gu comes in very handy to prevent the dreaded and embarrassing bonk. Runners and cyclists bonk when they completely deplete the reserves of fuel in their muscles and blood. The liver can't replenish the supply fast enough. What's left is a very inefficient process of trying to burn fat. It won't work and the runner will eventually collapse after suffering weakness and nausea possibly followed by vomiting and hallucinations. Ahh, the glory of long distance sports!
The trick, of course, is to eat properly throughout the event. Enter Gu. When cycling distances, I try and eat one every hour and half or so. Should the Gu folks read this endorsement of their very fine product, I prefer the Just Plain variety with vanilla being a close second. Eating it is quite pleasant. It is very similar to swallowing a mouthful of frosting or pudding. The small amount of caffeine in it is also helpful.
I think it might be a reasonably successful business model to travel around the country with a supply of Gu selling it at grossly inflated prices to tired looking runners and cyclists as they pass by. I could set up a little table along a bike or running path with a sign reading "Bonking? GU $5 each" and probably do just fine. If I toss in a cup of warm tap water for another $1, I'd be sitting pretty. This sounds like a franchise opportunity. Isn't this how the FedEx guy and Michael Dell got their starts? One problem is that runners don't tend to carry much cash. Hmmmm. I need to work on this a bit more. Perhaps I can take credit cards.
Saturday, October 08, 2005
The news media now reports that the Federal Circuit has denied RIM's request for en banc review by the entire 12-member court. RIM faces the possibility of an injunction against sales or operations in the U.S., which, according to the New York Times, is 70% of its revenue.
Two interesting things are bound to happen. First, RIM will surely appeal to the Supreme Court which, if it takes the case, will have to make a decision about the extraterritorial application of the patent law. This may be unlikely as the Federal Circuit hears all patent appeals and there is no possibility for another circuit to disagree with it. Also, there is no obvious constitutional issue. The second thing going on is that the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office is re-examining the NTP patents to see if they should have been issued in the first place. According to RIM, that is looking like a promising way to get this wrapped up.
We'll have to see what happens. Just image the hue and cry from Blackberry addicts if the service goes dark. Palm shares rose on this thought alone. If that happens, I suspect the Canadian military will have to move to the border as U.S. white-collar workers threaten to invade Ontario in an effort to force RIM to settle with NTP.
Thursday, October 06, 2005
Saturday, October 01, 2005
The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has now had the opportunity to weigh in on this in a case called Xerox Corp.Vv. United States. Xerox filed protests to seek NAFTA refunds and Customs denied all but one of the protests finding them to be untimely. This is because all but one of the protests was filed more than a year after the date of entry. Customs treated the remaining protest as a request for reliquidation.
The Federal Circuit look at the law, regulationss, and legislative history and found that the one-year limit is a strict requirement. More important, the Court also held that the lack of a NAFTA claim at the time of entry means that Customs made no decision regarding the NAFTA status of the goods. As a result, there was no protestable decision and, therefore, there could be no valid protest of the NAFTA status of the merchandise. Obviously worried about how far this holding might apply, the Court was clear that is did not mean to imply that when Customs liquidates merchandise "as entered," there is no protestable decision. Mainly, this seems to be because 19 U.S.C. § 1520(d) specifically addresses this question. But, it seems to be a dangerously slipper slope. We'll have to see.
On the downside, you are near the top of the food chain with respect to Homeland Security. If anything breaks bad via a U.S. port of entry or an immigrant, it will not look good on your resume. Plus, you need to be sure to keep Congress happy. That can't be easy, or fun.