After a more than one-year wait, the Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) has imposed controls on its first 'emerging technology' – software specially designed to automate the analysis of geospatial imagery. This software now requires a BIS authorisation to be exported or re-exported to any country other than Canada. Companies that develop or use AI to solve geospatial problems or in geospatial applications must review the new rules closely.
The United States and China recently signed a long-awaited trade agreement after nearly two years of a trade war that has resulted in crippling tariffs. This preliminary agreement requests China to purchase approximately $200 billion in certain US goods and services and provide better protection to US intellectual property and trade secrets. In exchange, President Trump has agreed to reduce the List 4A tariffs on $120 billion worth of goods and indefinitely suspend the imposition of a 15% tariff on List 4B products.
The State Department has finally brought the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) into the 21st century by releasing an interim final rule adopting the cloud computing encryption standards that the Commerce Department adopted in 2015. The good news is that, for the most part, the State Department resisted the temptation to do something different in the ITAR, so the joint Commerce-State solution works.
In the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernisation Act and the Export Control Reform Act, Congress essentially gave the Department of Commerce the authority to decide how narrowly or widely to set the jurisdiction for the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States over non-passive minority investments involving emerging and foundational technologies. Yet, at times, the department has seemed almost paralysed by this question.
Section 301 of the Trade Act authorises the president to take retaliatory action if it is determined that a trade act, policy or practice of a foreign government is unreasonable or discriminatory and burdens or restricts US commerce. December 2019 saw significant end-of-year developments on the Section 301 tariff front. US importers should take stock of these as they plan for 2020.