25 March 2014

Did You Know? Issue 179

25th March 2014

1. Reminder EU GSP changes 2015: 2. EU Update Ukraine: 3. AEO Mutual Recognition Agreement EU-China:4. EU FTA Update – Vietnam & Canada:  5. Qatar – amended import regulations: 6. Russian Sanctions: 7.  OFAC Publishes Iran General License G:  8. CHIEF Replacement

1. Reminder EU GSP changes 2015: As mentioned in DYK 173 in December 2013, remember that both China and Thailand will lose preferential access to EU on the 1stJanuary 2015 for ALL products.  This is due to them being named as middle income countries by the World Bank for 3 consecutive years.  In addition, if Fiji and Kenya do not sign the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) by 1stOctober 2014 they will also lose preferential access to the EU.  The impact of this will mean that the Fiji Sugar Industry will cease to enjoy current benefits if Government does not ratify the agreement.  Currently, Fiji has quota free access to the EU market and losing that preferential access will be costly.
2. EU Update Ukraine:  After a volatile month of sanctions and restrictions being placed on Ukraine and Russia Friday 21st March 2014 saw the signing of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement (suspended in November 2013 due to political pressure in Ukraine).  The signing, on the second day of a meeting of EU heads of state and government, is a significant symbolic step that brings Kyiv closer to the 28-member union despite Russia's objections.  The two sides signed three of the seven chapters of the agreement.  The signing ceremony came as Russian President Vladimir Putin formally signed the annexation of Crimea, having secured backing in both chambers of the Russian legislature.  The trade portion of the EU accord, which is the bulk of the treaty, is to be signed after May 2014
            In addition on the 6th March 2014, the European Commission adopted a proposal for temporarily removing customs duties on Ukrainian exports to the EU “to help stabilise Ukraine’s economy with a package of measures”. However, the preferences are not a substitute for the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area DCFTA and will be granted for a limited period only - until 1 November 2014.
3. AEO Mutual Recognition Agreement EU-China:COUNCIL DECISION on the position to be adopted, on behalf of the European Union, in the EU-China Joint Customs Cooperation Committee regarding mutual recognition of the Authorised
Economic Operator Programme in the European Union and the Measures on Classified Management of Enterprises Program in the People’s Republic of China.
Mutual recognition of trade partnership programmes enhances end-to-end supply chain security and facilitates trade. It consolidates internationally the approach agreed in the World Customs Organization’s Framework of Standards to Secure and Facilitate Trade. It also addresses the concerns of the business community to avoid proliferation of requirements and to standardise customs security procedures.
4. EU FTA Update – Vietnam & Canada:  Good progress has been announced by the EU on negotiations with Vietnam and Canada on establishing a Free Trade Agreement. 
            Vietnam: The 7th round of talks was completed on 21st March 2014 with the positive statement from Vietnam that they want to conclude and sign the agreement October 2014 when the president will be visiting Brussels. Two more rounds have been scheduled for May 2014 and Sept 2014 to finalise the terms of the agreement.
            Canada: This has been a key negotiation since Oct 2013 and is progressing quickly with the FTA Text due this year which means the FTA can be from mid-2015
5. Qatar – amended import regulations: The Qatar Ministry of Environment has implemented new regulations for electrical products imported into Qatar.  Energy-saving air conditioners and energy-saving lamps are subject to new quality standards the import of incandescent light bulbs/lamps (Tungsten) has been banned.
In addition, the Gulf Cooperation Councils' (GCC) Commission for Food Safety hosted in Qatar has approved the draft of the new Food Law in the GCC. The draft law serves as a guide for the procedures of food imported into the GCC and shall improve the quality of foodstuffs in the GCC region. Qatar aims at imposing restrictions on the import and sale of certain types of food that increase the risk of developing food-induced diseases. The Law also specifies the permitted levels of colours, preservatives and other ingredients in several food items. The Law shall be implemented in early 2014.
6. Russian Sanctions: After the vote in Crimea on Sunday 16th March 2014 which was in favour of Crimea becoming independent from Ukraine the EU and the USA issued warning that they would impose sanctions on Russia.  A treaty signed by Crimean leaders with Moscow on 18th March 2014 absorbed the peninsula - an autonomous republic in southern Ukraine - into Russia, following a referendum which the West and Kiev say was illegal.  The treaty was approved by Russia's lower house of parliament - the Duma. On 18th March 2014 Notice to Exporters 2014/06: UK suspends all licences and licence applications for export to Russian military that could be used against Ukraine.
EU leaders agreed to a three-stage process of increasing pressure on Russia over its incursion in Crimea.  This began with imposing a travel ban and asset freeze on a list of 21 Russians and Crimeans (expected to be added to) and the threat to suspend of visa talks and negotiations over a new investment agreement.  The third step would likely involve an arms embargo and trade restrictions.
European leaders also cancelled an EU-Russia summit planned for June 2014 and said individual countries would cancel their own meetings with Russia. If Moscow continues to block a monitoring mission to the Ukraine by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, they said, they would organize their own EU mission.  The G7 are currently meeting to discuss further measures on Russia.
7.  OFAC Publishes Iran General License G:  The U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has issued Iran General License G authorizing accredited U.S. academic institutions to establish and operate undergraduate and graduate academic exchange agreements with Iranian universities, including the provision of scholarships to participating Iranian students. It also authorizes the export to Iran of certain additional educational services by U.S. academic institutions, including the provision of certain on-line courses, and by U.S. persons for certain academic study or non-for-profit educational activities in Iran, or the administration of university entrance and other examinations for Iranian students.
8. CHIEF Replacement: The CHIEF Replacement Programme (CRP – you can tell their serious this time, it’s got an acronym!) started this year and they are going out to tender for service providers in May 2014.  A decision will be made in March 2015.  Though they have been talking to other MS about similar products or joint venturing this isn’t going to happen, but they will be designing things (creating a blueprint) in the same way so that software companies can come up with a single solution to meet customs requirements in FI/NL/SE/GB. They have a wish list at the moment which includes:
•           Inclusion of Postal Processing within CRP
•           ITE included (Integrated Tariff Environment)
•           Post Clearance Amendments
•           Facility to attach documents rather than fax them to NCH
•           Data management is being looked at in more detail and will probably lead to MSS being replaced and maybe moved from CRP.
•           CRP providing full statistics (Intrastat??? – he didn’t think so)
•           Stamping EU licences – he didn’t think so

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