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USTR Froman Looks to Next Steps in Review, Renewal of African Growth and Opportunity Act
Office of the United States Trade Representative  / http://www.ustr.gov/Froman-Next-Steps-in-Review-Renewal-of-AGOA

At 12th AGOA Forum, USTR Froman Also Highlights Trade Africa, Power Africa, Obama Administration’s Commitment to Economic Engagement with Africa

Washington, D.C. - Today, United States Trade Representative Michael Froman concluded a three-day visit to Ethiopia, where he led the U.S. Delegation to the 2013 U.S.-Sub-Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum, also known as the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum. Throughout the trip, Ambassador Froman highlighted Obama Administration efforts to support economic growth and regional integration throughout sub-Saharan Africa, particularly through trade and investment that benefits both American and African businesses and workers. Discussion at the Forum focused on the seamless renewal of the African Growth and Opportunity Act itself. The program, which allows thousands of African products into the United States duty-free, is set to expire in 2015.

“President Obama is committed to a seamless renewal of AGOA – one that is informed by and aligns with the global trading system. Here in Addis Ababa, we launched a formal review of AGOA, the cornerstone of U.S.-Africa engagement,” said Ambassador Froman. “Now it’s time to tackle tough and even controversial questions to determine what has worked for African exporters and U.S. businesses in AGOA, what needs improvement, and where we should take AGOA going forward.”

This year marks the 12th annual meeting of the AGOA Forum, which brings together hundreds of U.S. and sub-Saharan African government officials, as well as the African and American private sector and civil society. Also present were women participants in the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program who, with U.S. support, are working to increase exports under AGOA. The theme of this year’s Forum was “Sustainable Transformation through Trade and Technology.”

On August 12, the first official day of the AGOA Forum, Ambassador Froman spoke to Ministers and other AGOA Forum participants about the United States’ vision for AGOA post-2015:

“We need to lay the foundation for AGOA 2.0, informed by the lessons of the past thirteen years, reflecting the changes in the global trading system, and driven by the ideas of today and tomorrow,” said Ambassador Froman in his remarks. “That process begins today. And it begins here.”

The Forum was hosted this year by Ethiopia in partnership with the United States. On the margins of the Forum, Ambassador Froman discussed a range of bilateral trade and investment issues in meetings with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, Ethiopian Trade Minister Kebede Chane, and Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. He also met with other AGOA ministers and with representatives of the African Development Bank and Africa’s Regional Economic Communities, and engaged with members of the private sector to gain perspectives on AGOA and discuss the importance of increased trade and investment in Africa.

Ambassador Froman last visited Africa with President Obama on June 27-July 2, 2013, where the President announced the launch of Trade Africa – a new partnership between the United States and Africa, with an initial focus on the five-country East African Community (EAC), that will increase regional trade within Africa, and expand trade between Africa, the United States, and other global markets. Upon his arrival in Ethiopia on Sunday, August 11, Ambassador Froman met with Ministers from the East African Community and announced new initiatives including the launch of negotiations toward a Trade Facilitation Agreement.  

On August 13, Ambassador Froman highlighted President Obama’s announcement of Power Africa, a new initiative to help Africa leverage its vast resources to meet its energy needs and increase its global competitiveness, with a visit to d’Ventus Technologies, an Ethiopian-American producer of smart meters and wind turbines. Currently, more than two-thirds of the population of sub-Saharan Africa is without reliable access to electricity and more than 85 percent of the rural population lacks access.  

Ambassador Froman also stopped by Aleta Land Coffee, a coffee warehouse and plant where green coffee is processed and packaged for export to the United States. This coffee will be exported from Ethiopia through the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange (ECX) – the creation of which the United States supported to promote exports from Africa. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is currently working with the ECX on a “traceability” initiative that will allow coffee to be traced from where it was grown, increasing the value of Ethiopian coffee on the global market.

“Our Africa strategy goes beyond traditional aid and assistance,” said Ambassador Froman. “We’re focused on mobilizing trade and investment.”

In 2012, total two-way trade between the United States and sub-Saharan Africa was valued at $72 billion. Non-oil exports under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) have more than doubled since enactment of AGOA in 2001. U.S. goods exports to sub-Saharan Africa are up nearly three-fold since 2002. For more information on U.S. trade with Africa, visit USTR’s website here


2013 Update - Study of U.S. Inland Containerized Cargo Moving Through Canadian and Mexican Seaports: One Year Later
 The Federal Maritime Commission / www.fmc.gov

Statement of Commissioner Richard A. Lidinsky, Jr.

Just over one year from the submission of the Commission’s Study of U.S. Inland Containerized Cargo Moving Through Canadian and Mexican Seaports, the Office of Commissioner Richard A. Lidinsky, Jr. would like to update the maritime industry, regulated parties, and consuming public, regarding this very important issue. In general, the volume of cargo bound for U.S. inland destinations imported via adjacent countries has remained constant and economists anticipate a stagnant growth rate for the balance of this year.

The report issued by the Commission in July 2012 at the request of U.S. Senators and Congressmen posed three basic questions: first, whether there were any legal or regulatory bars to the carriage by sea and movement of U.S. inland containerized cargo entering via the Canadian or Mexican border; second, what competitive factors would drive a U.S. importer or exporter to route cargo through Mexican or Canadian ports; third, what Congress could do to "level the playing field" in facilitating U.S. ports’ competition with other North American cross-border ports by addressing the HMT structure.

This Study by the Commission was conducted in consultation with Federal and State government agencies in the U.S. The FMC also consulted directly with the governments of Canada and Mexico. Additionally, FMC representatives visited with government officials in Canada and Mexico in order to develop a first-hand understanding of their transportation systems. The Canadian transport and Mexican port officials were more than cooperative in sharing information.

The Committee tasked with completing the report, composed of Commission attorneys, economists, and industry experts found with regard to the first question that carriers shipping cargo through Canadian and Mexican ports violate no U.S. law, treaty, agreement, or FMC regulation. The second question posed was reduced to several key factors that drive cargo bound for the U.S. heartland, through foreign seaports including overall shipment savings, risk mitigation through port diversification, perceived transit time benefits, avoidance of the HMT, and rail rate disparities. The Commission’s report concluded that Congress has many options to consider with regard to replacing the current Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT) structure, to ensure maximum competitiveness for all U.S. ports.

Competitive diversion threats noted in the Commission’s Study included the current ports of Lázaro Cárdenas in Southwestern Mexico, and the Port of Prince Rupert in Northwestern Canada. Additionally, several proposed projects were discussed, all of which have been postponed since the issuance of the Study, due to the general economic downturn, and cargo volume flattening experienced as a general trend over the last several years. These projects also included the building of Punta Colonet, a massive container port on the Baja Peninsula, and the Port of Melford located in close proximity to the current Port of Halifax, in Nova Scotia.

The report, non-discriminatorily, focused primarily on the considerable amount of cargo bound for the U.S. but entering North America initially through Prince Rupert. The Port, located about 450 miles north of the U.S.-Canada border in Northern British Columbia, now constitutes the largest single source of American cargo diversion. The geographic location of the Port and its naturally deep, ice-free harbor, have attracted numerous service strings originating in Northeast Asia. More specifically, 2010 saw 425,264 TEUs enter the U.S. via Canada, with 116,107 TEUs entering through Prince Rupert. Other Canadian Ports receiving U.S. bound cargo included Vancouver, Montreal, and Halifax.

In 2011, it is estimated that roughly 478,000 TEUs made their way into the U.S. via these same Canadian ports with 140,845 TEUs entering through the Port of Prince Rupert. In 2012, the number of U.S. bound containers that transited Prince Rupert rose to an estimated 190,000 TEUs. However, the cargo volumes thus far for 2013 perhaps indicate the Port’s annual capacity growth is beginning to flatten, with a projected yearly volume of 197,400 TEUs.

This lower growth could be attributed to several factors including a slow-down of the global economy; the Port of Prince Rupert nearing its maximum design capacity; and operational decisions by ocean carriers to utilize U.S. west coast ports.

On the Congressional front, S. 601, the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) gained Senate approval in May 2013, and includes moderate HMT reform by mandating that more, but not all annual HMT collections are spent on port dredging and maintenance. A House version of the WRDA has yet to be introduced.

After evaluating the situation over the past year, including a re-examination and assessment of domestic and global transportation developments, general economic environment, and industry conditions, continued congressional consideration of a revised HMT plan for the future is likely. This office will continue to monitor cargo flow trends on behalf of the importer, exporter and American consumer, seeking to ensure the Commission’s goal of a fair, efficient, and reliable maritime transportation system.


ILA and USMX Clarify Union's Preservation of ILA Chassis Work and ILA Jurisdiction Over Plugging and Unplugging of Reefer Containers Aboard Vessels
International Longshoremen's Association / http://www.ilaunion.org/news_clarify_letters.html

In two jointly signed letters to all ILA members and employers, the leaders of the International Longshoremen's Association, AFL-CIO and United States Maritime Alliance, LTD., have clearly defined ILA's preservation of ILA Chassis Work and ILA Jurisdiction over Plugging and Unplugging of Reefer Containers Aboard Vessels.

Harold J. Daggett, ILA President and David F. Adam, Chairman and CEO of USMX, reaffirmed the language that was negotiated in this year's ILA-USMX Master Contract. Copies of the two letters follow:

Preservation of ILA Chassis Work

ILA Jurisdiction over Plugging and Unplugging of Reefer Containers Aboard Vessels


Illegally Imported and Unsafe Land Rover Defender Destroyed in Baltimore
U.S. Customs & Border Protection / http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/newsroom/news_releases/local/08152013_7.xml

Seized under CBP, NHTSA, EPA Op for Violating Highway Safety Standards

Baltimore — A Land Rover Defender, which U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers seized at the Baltimore seaport April 16 as an illegal and unsafe import, was destroyed in spectacular fashion at an undisclosed Maryland salvage yard Tuesday.

This Defender is one of dozens stopped in recent months at ports of entry in Philadelphia, Norfolk, Va., Charleston, S.C., Savannah, Ga., Jacksonville, Fla., Houston and Tacoma, Wa., that violated federal highway safety standards, including the standards requiring airbags.

A portion of these illegal shipments will require destruction, as their Vehicle Identification Number (VINs) was intentionally altered and/or manipulated.

All shipments were targeted for examination by CBP’s Commercial Targeting and Analysis Center (CTAC) in Washington, D.C. The CTAC combines resources and staff from several government agencies, including National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Environment Protection Agency (EPA), to protect the American public from harm caused by unsafe imported products.

These Land Rover Defenders were represented on import entry documents as being 25 years of age or older, but may actually be newer vehicles whose Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN) have been fraudulently altered.

These fraudulent actions are intended to take advantage of the exemptions within the statutes and regulations administered by NHTSA and EPA that allow older, nonconforming vehicles to be imported without restriction (NHTSA - 25 years old and EPA - 21 years old).

The overseas value for this model of vehicle is approximately $25,000. However, the resale value in the U.S. can run as much as $150,000 per vehicle depending on its model year and condition. Because these vehicles cannot be lawfully imported into the U.S. unless they are at least 25 years old, their rarity also inflates the stateside purchase price.

“Ensuring the safety of imported products is a top priority for CBP,” said Allen Gina, CBP’s assistant commissioner for international trade. “The concerted targeting efforts of CTAC and the vigilance of CBP officers and import specialists at our ports of entry will help ensure that unsafe vehicles from overseas markets do not reach our roadways.”

Prospective buyers of imported vehicles can confirm the validity of the vehicle by checking the VIN in a vehicle history report.

Buyers who suspect that a vehicle is being illegally imported are encouraged to report suspected trade violations. All information submitted to CBP is voluntary and confidential. To report a possible trade violation, please visit eAllegations.  ( eAllegations )

For additional information on the CTAC and import safety, please visit CBP.gov/Trade, and click on the “Priority Trade Issues” tab.  ( Trade


CBP, German Customs Team Up for Big Seizure
U.S. Customs & Border Protection / http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/newsroom/news_releases/national/08122013.xml

(August 12, 2013) New York — U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced today that 20,000 Zolpidem pills, a schedule IV controlled substance, have been seized thanks to a collaborative enforcement effort with the German Customs Investigations Bureau Zollkriminalamt.

“Timely information from Zollkriminalamt and excellent targeting and coordination efforts by CBP’s Pharmaceuticals Center of Excellence and Expertise resulted in this significant interception, keeping these harmful pills off of our streets,” said Robert E. Perez, Director of Field Operations in New York. “We thank our partners in German Customs for their ongoing collaboration.”

"We are very happy that the joint collaboration between CBP and the Zollkriminalamt was successful,” said Dr. Ulrike Berg-Haas, German Customs liaison. “The Zollkriminalamt intends to pursue this excellent cooperation against growing global threats. We look forward to our continued work together and are confident, that this will not be the last joint operation."

The seizure occurred at the San Francisco International Mail Facility. Acting on information provided by the Zollkriminalamt, CBP’s Pharmaceutical CEE targeted several shipments, and CBP officers at the International Mail Facility intercepted numerous parcels originating in India that had transited Germany. Upon closer examination of the suspect parcels, CBP personnel discovered that the 10 parcels contained a total of 20,000 Zolpidem pills, a Schedule IV controlled substance, and seized the pills.

This enforcement action follows another collaborative enforcement effort in March between CBP and French Customs Fake Medicine Observatory when CBP personnel seized 400 Carisoprodol pills, another schedule IV controlled substance. ( CBP and French Customs Officials Seize Controlled Substance )

As these seizures illustrate, CBP collaborates with its international partners to intercept merchandise that infringes on registered trademarks, is made of substandard materials, or contains prohibited substances that may represent a threat to public safety.

The Pharmaceutical, Health and Chemicals CEE is one of 10 virtual centers that provide one-stop processing to lower the trade’s cost of business, provide greater consistency and predictability and enhance CBP enforcement efforts. The Centers represent CBP’s expanded focus on “Trade in the 21st Century,” transforming customs procedures to align with modern business. The CEEs will also serve as resources to the broader trade community and to CBP’s U.S. government partners. 
Long Beach Cargo Volume Rises in July
U.S. Port of Long Beach / http://www.polb.com/news/displaynews.asp?NewsID=1199&TargetID=1

Port activity shows steady growth in imports, exports

Containerized cargo volume climbed 7.6 percent in July at the Port of Long Beach compared to the same month one year ago, with both imports and exports showing solid increases.

A total of 562,166 TEUs (or twenty-foot equivalent container units) moved through Long Beach in July. Imports increased 12.9 percent to 294,926 TEUs. Exports were up 6.2 percent to 132,290 TEUs.

Empty containers were down 1.3 percent to 134,950 TEUs in July. With imports exceeding exports, empties are sent overseas to be refilled with goods.

For the first seven months of 2013, 13.2 percent more cargo has moved through Long Beach compared to the same period in 2012 ? including 15.7 percent more imports, 9.5 percent more exports and 12 percent more empties. These increases are in part due to the larger ships calling at the Port more frequently and the addition of service lines starting in the last part of 2012.

For the latest monthly cargo numbers, click here.


Port Runner Apprehended South of Blaine Port of Entry
U.S. Customs & Border Protection / http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/newsroom/news_releases/local/08132013_7.xml

Blaine, Wash. — U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers along with assistance from a special agent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) apprehended a U.S. citizen after fleeing the Pacific Highway crossing on August 8.

At approximately 11:30 a.m. PDT, a silver midsized SUV arrived at a primary processing booth where questioning by the CBP officer revealed that Seattle resident Jason Lau, 42, had just been refused entry into Canada. The CBP officer referred Lau to the secondary inspection area but he sped away before arriving in the secondary area.

Supervisory CBP officers, joined by the HSI agent pursued Lau in chase vehicles and Lau was stopped less than a mile away from the port. As officers approached, the subject became combative and was forcibly taken into custody and returned to the port.

“The quick action of the CBP officers and HSI agent involved prevented a possible life-threatening accident. Port runners will be apprehended and prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” said Blaine Area Port Director Greg Alvarez.

Keeping terrorists from entering the country, preventing illegal entry, intercepting dangerous drugs and contraband, and apprehending fugitives are all part of what U.S. Customs and Border Protection does every day at the ports of entry and between the ports of entry. Smugglers and others trying to bypass inspection sometimes refuse to comply with instructions and “run the port.”

“Port running,” refers to incidents where a person or vehicle crossing into or out of the United States fails to stop or attempts to avoid or bypass inspection at a port of entry. These instances occur when an individual drives a vehicle into the United States through an open or closed port of entry without inspection.

People who engage in “port running” face serious consequences for their actions, including both civil and criminal penalties. A civil penalty of at least $5,000 and up to $10,000 may be levied and the vehicle may be seized. Lau faces federal criminal prosecution in U.S. District Court in Seattle on charges of assault on a federal officer and high speed flight from an immigration check point.
 
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