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The European Union has just released a list of U.S. products for retaliatory tariffs following the recent announcement by the U.S. of its intent to levy additional duties on European products. The EU list covers nearly $23 billion worth of U.S. goods including tractors, luggage, frozen fish, fruit, wine, ketchup, nuts, and orange juice. 

With or without a deal and unless there is a last minute extension, the United Kingdom will leave the European Union (EU) at 11 pm London time on 29 March 2019.  Since triggering the exit process, the UK has worked towards having a deal in place that would ensure a smooth departure, including a transition period that would largely preserve the status quo until the end of 2020 or even beyond.   At the same time, however, both the UK and the EU have engaged in contingency planning in the event a deal could not be agreed or failed to be ratified.  For the UK, this has included efforts to revise legislation to remove references to the EU and its agencies to ensure that UK law could function on Day One after leaving the EU.  This process has involved the review of hundreds of legislative acts to create new statutory instruments, many of which have yet to be passed into law.  The legislative backlog means that necessary legislation may not be in place before 29 March 2019.  To avoid a legal gap, the UK adopted the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018 and provided therein a catch all provision to ensure that EU law that is not addressed elsewhere is retained.

Should the UK leave the EU without a deal, the UK will impose, update and lift sanctions as of 30 March pursuant to regulations issued under the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018 (the Sanctions Act). Sanctions regimes that are not covered would continue to apply, as retained EU law under the EU (Withdrawal) Act.   Sanctions laws apply to actions taken by UK persons, which includes companies and individuals, in the UK or anywhere else.
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Prime Minister Theresa May’s recent visit to Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria was the latest in the United Kingdom’s global diplomacy effort to secure strategic economic­ partnerships in preparation for the UK leaving the European Union (EU).  In the first visit of a UK Prime Minister to Africa since 2013, a 29 person delegation of government and private sector representatives pursued May’s goal of becoming Africa’s biggest foreign investor within four years.  As a result of the trip, trade and investment deals worth some 300 million GBP were announced, involving everything from automobile manufacturing and digital money transfer services to insurance and agricultural technology. Importantly, the UK also reached a deal with the Southern African Customs Union and Mozambique to facilitate trade and announced major investments in education and voluntary family planning for the future of African youth.

Trade between the UK and Africa already is worth 31 billion GBP annually.  By 2050, a quarter of the world’s consumers will be African. According to the Prime Minister, “With a shared passion for entrepreneurship, technology and innovation, now is the time for UK companies to strengthen their partnerships with Africa to boost jobs and prosperity both at home and overseas.”

According to the African Agricultural Technology Foundation, 233 million Africans are either suffering from hunger or are malnourished; 32 million of these are under the age of five.  While Africa’s economy is driven by agriculture, farming continues to be largely at a subsistence level:  80 percent of the 51 million farmers are small holder farmers.  Further, 95 percent of all farming in Africa is entirely dependent on rainfall.  The challenge under these conditions is to increase food production by 50 to 70 percent by 2050 without destroying the environment.  What will be required is a combination of increasingly sophisticated farming techniques (e.g. precision farming), precision breeding; improved stewardship; access to advancements achieved by modern biotechnology to increase drought tolerance, increase yield, and combat plant pests and diseases; and enabling regulatory policies and frameworks.  Critical is the fact that more efficient agriculture directly translates into freeing women and children to pursue other economic activities and/or education.
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It has always been a possibility that the United Kingdom would crash out of the European Union on 30 March 2019 but “no deal” preparation is now highly recommended by both sides.  For organisations that export dual use items, the possibility of the UK becoming a “third country” vis-à-vis the EU without an exit agreement or transition period means an overnight need for export licenses where none are required today.

Seasoned international businesses understand that dual use items, which can be used for both civil and military purposes, include far more products than one might assume.  In addition to the more obvious goods that may be used to produce or develop military items, such as machine tools and equipment used for chemical manufacturing, computers, drawings, technology, software, raw materials, and components also may be subject to dual use controls.   Even seemingly mundane items such as protective clothing used in medical laboratories, certain commonly used chemicals, certain ball bearings, and a wide variety of other products are controlled for export and they need to be properly classified to determine if a license would be needed to ship to a UK that has left the EU.  Many entities that have been operating exclusively within the EU could soon be confronted with dual use licensing requirements for the first time and global businesses may be faced with a potentially significant increase in the number of items that need be licensed.
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On 4 June, the European Commission advised economic operators to prepare for the consequences of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union on their imports and exports.   Following the UK’s withdrawal, UK inputs, including materials and certain processing operations, will no longer be considered EU origin for purposes of enjoying preferential treatment.   Whether a particular good qualifies depends on the rules of origin specified in each trade agreement between the EU and its trading partners.  The Commission advises EU exporters to treat any UK inputs as “non-originating” when determining the EU’s treatment of their goods post-Brexit and to take appropriate steps to be able to prove the preferential origin of goods without counting UK inputs as EU content.  Economic operators importing goods into the EU also are advised to take steps to ensure that the exporter can demonstrate compliance with EU preferential origin rules given the exclusion of UK inputs after Brexit.
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Despite the fact that export controls on dual-use goods derive from international agreements such as the Wassenaar Arrangement, significant differences can be seen as controls are implemented by different countries. The same is true in the European Union notwithstanding the fact that the EU’s dual-use regulation (Council Regulation (EC) No. 428/2009) is binding on its 28 Member States.  Accordingly, while Regulation 428/2009 exempts telecom and information security equipment with encryption where there is limited cryptography functionality and/or products are mass-marketed and cannot be readily changed (the “Cryptography Note”), the exact scope of the exemptions is determined by each Member State.
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March 2019 is coming and importers and exporters need to be prepared for what lies ahead. The UK is leaving not only the EU but its Customs Union.  No longer will imports into a distribution center in the EU cover sales in the UK.  Companies will need to set up logistics to manage UK imports and exports and be compliant with new UK customs regulations.  It is likely that a two year “standstill” or “transition” period will be agreed for the April 2019 to March 2021 period.  Should the UK leave the EU without an agreed deal on trade and customs, however, the UK would be a third country vis-à-vis the EU (now typically referred to as the “EU27” denoting the 28 EU Member States minus the UK) and all imports and exports between the UK and the EU bloc would be governed by WTO rules.

According to the British Retailers Consortium, with Brexit more than 180,000 companies could be required to make customs declarations for the first time and the UK is expecting more than 200 million additional customs declarations annually.  The most significant impact is feared for goods that are transported by road between the UK and the EU27 due to the lack of infrastructure at port facilities to handle queues of trucks on both sides of the Channel.  The Republic of Ireland faces significant obstacles given its use of the UK as a land-bridge to the EU single market.  While it is unimaginable that a solution will not be found, without an open skies agreement between the UK and the EU27, airplanes carrying everything from people to post, packages and time-sensitive goods will not be able to fly.     
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With Brexit on the horizon, UK representatives are reinvigorating relationships with key trading partners on every continent.  On 24 July, UK International Trade Secretary Liam Fox and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross launched a Trade and Investment Working Group to lay the groundwork for a trade deal to be negotiated after the UK exits the EU.  Fox reportedly arrived in Washington with a list of “confidence building” measures outside the EU’s purview that could be undertaken without violating the prohibition on negotiations with third countries while still an EU Member State. Initial talks are said to focus on “commercial continuity” and increasing bilateral trade.

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The basics are well-known:  having triggered Article 50 to terminate its membership in the European Union, the United Kingdom has a precious 18 months to get a deal done.  Unless every one of the 27 other Member States approve an extension of time, the UK will be a so-called “third country” vis-à-vis the EU on 30 March 2019.   The UK Government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Theresa May, has proposed a “hard Brexit” that enables the EU to conclude trade agreements with other countries in what has become known as the “Global Britain” approach.   Aspirations aside, the deal to be negotiated between the EU and the UK can range from virtually no change to the status quo for years to come to a quick and risky departure that greatly increases the pressure on the UK to negotiate favorable trade agreements with the EU and other trading partners.
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