Thursday, July 21, 2011

Controls, Controls, Controls, Controls, Controls

WTD is into its third day of covering an exhaustive – and exhausting – Commerce Department export controls outlook conference, which is explaining to an audience of well over 1,000 participants the ins-and-out of last Friday’s multifaceted proposed regulation on shifting mun...itions items from the State Department’s controls list to the less stringent and clearer Commerce Department Commodity Controls List.
Three days is enough to get a start on understanding the new regulation.

Commerce’s strategy at the conference is a correct one – repeating over and over again what the regulations mean in practice – without using bureaucratic philosophical terms. The audience is either rapt or has simply mutated into their seats. I can’t tell.

After two or three rounds of plenaries and numerous breakout sessions, even I am beginning to understand the regulations. An hour-long question and answer session this morning with Commerce’s regulation guru Assistant Secretary Kevin Wolf included a disclaimer that even he had to read the definition of “specially designed” at least a half-dozen times to begin to understand it. But he had encouraging words for the audience suggesting a read of a dozen or more times will help it to begin to make sense.

Overheard at a session on the new Strategic Trade Authorization license exception rule was one participant saying under his breath – “You have to have the rule memorized to begin to understand the explanation.”
Also noticed – sitting right next to me – was a young controls expert in the making from an old-line law firm fast sleep for the nearly one-and-a-half hours of the session. A peek at his notes indicated – “STA license exception” That was it.

But most participants seem to prove the old adage – better devil you than the devil you don’t. The only real applause came early on in the opening address on Tuesday by Commerce Undersecretary for Business and Industry Eric Hirschhorn when he announced that Commerce would put back on its webside a pdf copy of the old Export Administration Regulations.

Jim Berger

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