Archive for the ‘CCL’ Category


Feb

8

The Trials and Tribulations of Used Part Exporting – UPDATED


Posted by at 12:40 pm on February 8, 2018
Category: BISCCL

MHz HQ via https://mhzelectronics.com [Fair Use]Last month the Bureau of Industry and Security fined Phoenix-based used equipment and part dealer MHz Electronics $10,000 in connection with its exports of two pressure transducers classified as ECCN 2B230 to China and Taiwan. The fine was suspended contingent upon MHz behaving itself during a two-year “probationary period.”

Pressure transducers meeting the specifications in ECCN 2B230 can be used for blast measurement and are therefore controlled because of the role that they can allegedly play in nuclear testing and proliferation. The two items involved were sold for the eye-popping amounts of $280 and $1,100. Even though the fine imposed here was low, BIS’s miff factor was quite high, with the settlement documents noting that MHz did not have an “export compliance program.” In addition, MHz apparently brushed off a visit by FBI agents that had been trolling MHz’s (now-closed) eBay store and told them that one item (not either of these transducers) listed by them on eBay would require an export license if shipped internationally.

Under the circumstances, MHz got off lightly. But even so, this case raises some interesting questions and difficulties for export compliance for businesses like MHz. Like thousands of other small businesses, MHz bought and sold used electronic and testing equipment. With a 96,000 square foot warehouse, it no doubt had a staggering number of different kinds and types of parts and equipment.

How would it obtain ECCNs for all those items? Oh, you say, easy peasy: call the original manufacturer and ask. Uh-huh. Have you ever tried that before? Particularly if you’re selling used parts in an aftermarket competing with the original manufacturer. “You say you need the ECCN of our Model 2370C snarkle widget puffinator? Sure thing. Give me your phone number and someone will get right back to you by, say, April 1, 2032. Does that work?” Click.

And, I’m sure it should come as no surprise that many original manufacturers have no clue as to the ECCNs of their products, particularly if they are foreign. Try calling China and asking (in English or, even, Cantonese or Mandarin) for an ECCN.

Even if spec sheet for the product is published by the manufacturer, it rarely aligns with the control parameters in the relevant ECCN. I challenge you to figure out the classification of a CNC-machine, a computer, or almost anything else from published specification sheets.

The bottom line here is that compliance challenges effectively foreclose used parts companies (except, I suppose, companies exclusively devoted to selling used knitting supplies or antique fountain pens) from participating in the export market at all. And given that the parts that they sell are usually readily available outside the United States, there’s not much of a real justification for shutting this market down for them. BIS says that these bargain-basement priced items could be used for nuclear bomb testing. Does anyone really think that aspiring nuclear powers could not lay their hands on these (and probably better) items outside the United States?  And, if you can use a $280 sensor in nuclear testing, well, we’re in a lot more trouble than I imagined.

UPDATE:  An alert reader, who knows way more about nuclear bombs than I ever will, points out that pressure transducers covered by ECCN 2B230 are used for uranium enrichment in centrifuges, not for blast measurement.   Specifically, the reader notes:  “While 13 kiloPascal sounds like a big number, atmospheric pressure is 101 kPa, so 13 kPa is closer to a vacuum level.”    I’m going to point some finger of blame at BIS itself, which in the charging documents said: “Items classified under ECCN 2B230 … can be of significance for nuclear explosive purposes,” which suggests that the enforcement folks at BIS made the same mistake. Imagine that. In any event, if these small, readily available and inexpensive parts can be used for centrifuge uranium enrichment, we’re still in a whole lot of trouble.

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Copyright © 2018 Clif Burns. All Rights Reserved.
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Feb

21

Unhelpful Suggestion of the Day


Posted by at 6:36 pm on February 21, 2017
Category: BISCCLCustomsDDTCHTSUSUSML

Jardins Tuliere [sic] Statue by Eksley [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Flickr https://flic.kr/p/dRYGik [cropped]

An interesting article [subscription required] in the Journal of Commerce reports survey results indicating that one-third of all U.S. e-commerce merchants report that they have incurred fines and delays from regulatory agencies in connection with their imports and exports.  Within that group, 29 percent of the companies surveyed stated that they had been subject to fines in connection with cross-border shipments. With respect to delays, they cited the Bureau of Industry and Security, and the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls, at 32 percent and 30 percent, respectively. That’s a surprising figure by any measure, if true and representative.

But more astonishing and surprising is the suggestion that the JoC article author proposes to fix this:

The task of ensuring trade compliance is also becoming more difficult, as 48 percent said they now do business in more than 50 countries.Trade regulations are constantly increasing and growing, necessitating agile and adept global trade management platforms, empowered by a combination of technology, trade compliance intelligence, and automation.

These systems can help properly classify goods based on descriptions from product catalogs, country of export, and country of import. Strong and reliable classification can help avoid hang-ups at Customs agencies. … In addition to helping avoid run-ins with these agencies, automation is helpful because it allows shippers to track the costs and length of these delays, allowing for better forecasting and business planning.

Don’t get me wrong, automation is often a good idea. But to suggest that the HTSUS, USML Categories or ECCN numbers can be assigned to a product through automation is, well, preposterous. It is something that can only be suggested by someone who has never looked at the USML, the CCL or the HTSUS. Maybe this will be possible sometime in the future when cars fly and robots are butlers. But right now, it’s not a feasible solution.

Photo Credit: Jardins Tuliere [sic] Statue by Eksley [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Flickr https://flic.kr/p/dRYGik [cropped]. Copyright 2009 Eksley

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Copyright © 2017 Clif Burns. All Rights Reserved.
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Nov

11

EU Moves Ahead on Intrusion Software; BIS Holds Back


Posted by at 7:57 pm on November 11, 2014
Category: BISCCLEUSurreptitious Listening Devices

By Sébastien Bertrand (http://www.flickr.com/photos/tiseb/4592786358/) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0) or CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AEuropean_Commission_flags.jpgOn October 22, the European Commission amended its List of Dual Use Items to include controls on “intrusion software” which the Wassenaar Plenary adopted in December 2013 and which we reported here. The new list, and the export controls on intrusion software, will go into effect after 60 days from October 22 unless the E.U. Council or Parliament interpose objections.

That, of course, raises the question about where the United States is on adopting these controls. Initially spokespersons for the Bureau of Industry and Security indicated that the rules on intrusion detection hardware and software would be out in September. Well, September and October have both come and gone and there is no sign of new rules on this issue.

Of course, at least part of what Wassenaar defined as intrusion software is already controlled in the United States under ECCN 5D980, which was adopted in December 2007 and which controls surreptitious listening software. But 5D980 does not control, as the new controls on intrusion detection software would, software performing “the modification of the standard execution path of a program or process in order to allow the execution of externally provided instructions.” The scope of the definition of intrusion software is undeniably broad and susceptible of covering some unobjectionable types of software, so it seems clear the BIS must be struggling with how to handle the breadth of the definition and limited unintended consequences.

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Copyright © 2014 Clif Burns. All Rights Reserved.
(No republication, syndication or use permitted without my consent.)

Mar

13

Daily News Attempts Export Humor; Bombs


Posted by at 4:25 pm on March 13, 2014
Category: BISCCLNorth Korea Sanctions

By Jared Kofsky (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ADaily_News_Building-_WPIX_CW_11.JPGIt must have been a slow news day on Tuesday for the New York Daily News, because the aging tabloid decided to try its hand at export humor. As you might imagine, things did not go well for the paper.

The attempt occurred in a feature called “Your Cheat Sheet,” which appears in a blog called “The Swamp” and looks at important events in DC. You know, so-and-so is testifying on the Hill, Prime Minister Muckety-Muck of Lower Lithovakia meets with USDA officials, etc.   With that in mind, we present the joke in full:

Breaking News, so let’s parachute Anderson Cooper into: the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security holds a meeting of the Materials Processing Equipment Technical Advisory Committee to “discuss technical questions that affect the level of export controls applicable to materials processing equipment and related technology.”

[Insert sad trombone sound here.]

Okay, so see the Daily News writer thought it was just hilarious that somebody would meet about “materials processing equipment and related technology.” That’s like a meeting, you know, on polynomial equations or plasma actuators or other silly egghead stuff for nerdy bureaucrats. Losers!!!  Bring in that Anderson Cooper fellow to cover this really groundbreaking story, etc., etc.

One person who doesn’t think exports controls on “materials processing equipment and related technology” is a laughing matter is the Nork Dictator Kim-Jong Un. The UN Panel Report discussed in yesterday’s post noted that a key obstacle to Nork nuclear ambitions, and a key incentive for the country’s efforts to evade international sanctions, is that “it lacks sufficient domestic precision machine tool manufacturing capability” needed for building missiles and uranium enrichment facilities. That’s the equipment that’s in — yep, you got it — Category 2 of the Commerce Control List which covers “materials processing equipment and technology.”

The morale of this story is, of course, that export control humor should be left to the professionals.

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Copyright © 2014 Clif Burns. All Rights Reserved.
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Feb

11

With All Eyes on Sochi, Russian Ears Are on Ukraine


Posted by at 8:49 pm on February 11, 2014
Category: BISCCLExport ReformSurreptitious Listening Devices

Kremlin.ru [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commonshttp://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AVladimir_Putin_at_the_Millennium_Summit_6-8_September_2000-19.jpg

The continuing violence and political instability in Ukraine have raised concerns around the world, especially within the United States and the EU.  Whether some form of sanctions against current officials in the Ukrainian government should be imposed has been debated over the past several weeks, including reports that the Obama administration began preparing financial sanctions against current Ukrainian government officials last month.

Sanctions against Ukrainian officials are, of course, a delicate diplomatic endeavor for EU countries that not only trade extensively with Ukraine but also recognize the effects to EU-Russian relations with any rancor that develops by proxy in former Soviet states.  Such targeted EU or U.S. sanctions, moreover, amount to blocking funds that are unlikely to be found in large amounts in Western banks and a travel ban on individuals who were not likely to travel to the West in the near future in any event.

The telephone conversation posted to YouTube late last week between U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and Geoffrey Pyatt, U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, however, exposed just how heated a resolution in Ukraine is becoming between the United States and the EU.  In discussing how officials from the United Nations may assist in reaching a resolution between the current Ukrainian government and opposition leaders, Nuland has now infamously said, “f**k the EU,” presumably an expression of her view that EU involvement thus far to address the situation in Ukraine has been inadequate.  As if that were not enough for diplomatic missteps, it has also been reported that Nuland and Pyatt each used unencrypted cell phones during the conversation.

While the fallout of Nuland’s comments and the Obama Administration’s finger-pointing at Russia for its involvement in hacking the phone call will garner the headlines, the issue also presents an interesting juncture for a shadowy subject of U.S. export controls: surreptitious listening devices.

As we first reported over seven years ago, BIS has not always been sufficiently clear on its standards for classifying surreptitious listening devices that are subject to the EAR’s control under section 742.13.  In Export Control Reform materials presented by BIS last year, BIS articulated five questions to assist exporters in answering the ultimate question, “Is my item subject to the 742.13 Communications Interception policy?”  Those questions, however, don’t help advance the ball much in improving a U.S. exporter’s ability in classifiying surreptitious listening devices short of seeking clarification or a license from BIS.

The United States may never determine what devices were involved in intercepting the Nuland-Pyatt conversation.  Moreover, the “tradecraft,” as Nuland described the interception, may very well continue to develop in ways that outpace any technical specifications that BIS affixes to surreptitious listening devices.  Without further clarity, however, U.S. exporters will still be mostly in the dark about what items require a U.S. export license at the same time that BIS will likely crank up the breadth of its controls over exports of surreptitious listening devices.  But if clarity is a hallmark of Export Control Reform, a little more with respect to surreptitious listening devices would go a long way.

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Copyright © 2014 Clif Burns. All Rights Reserved.
(No republication, syndication or use permitted without my consent.)