Hong Kong container scans continue - for a while
The Intermodal Container Inspection System (ICIS) in Hong Kong has been given another stay of execution. The project was to shut down in October, but officials now say the deadline was extended to the end of the year. Hong Kong terminal operators and technology supplier Science Applications Inter-national set up the pilot to scan container contents and radiation signatures as they arrived at the gates. U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspected the site in October, but has not formally decided if it will incorporate ICIS data into its targeting regime. ICIS officials said they expect a response before year end. If Customs turns thumbs-down, ICIS will close in Hong Kong - there will be nothing new to learn by keeping it going. However, ports elsewhere in the world are interested in the technology.
Most signatory nations ready for CAFTA
Five of the six Latin American nations that have signed the Central American Free Trade Agreement are working overtime to meet the goal of implementing CAFTA's complex provisions by Jan. 1, when the agreement is scheduled to take effect. "Everyone is working day and night to make it happen next year," Guillermo Castillo, Guatemala's ambassador to the U.S. told the annual Textiles & Apparel Trade & Transportation Conference last week in New York. However, when CAFTA is implemented, it will not immediately come into effect in Costa Rica, where legislation to ratify and implement the agreement is pending.
Mexico wants in on CAFTA benefits
Mexico's textile industry has been lobbying to win the same duty-free access to the U.S. market that signatories to the Central American Free Trade Agreement will enjoy. Adolfo Kalach, vice president of Kaltex, a Mexican textile manufacturer, said Mexico wants Mexican-made yarns and fabrics to be able to be exported to Central America, made into garments there, and exported to the U.S. duty-free as part of CAFTA. Kalach said this is critical for Mexican textile makers, which face rising competition from China. Mexican representatives will meet with U.S. trade officials Nov. 29-30 in Washington to try to work out details. Opponents of CAFTA, including the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition, argue that such rights, under a provision known as "cumulation," would create a loophole that would allow other CAFTA outsiders to gain duty-free access to U.S. markets.
Asian growth could top expectations
East and Southeast Asia are finishing the year with stronger growth than was thought possible at mid-year, mainly because of a strong rise in exports in the final quarter, according to IMA Asia, a Sydney-based economic research firm. But Richard Martin, IMA's managing director, cautioned that the current lift in trade may not carry over into 2006, but said two developments in North Asia could produce a more bullish outlook. The first is the possibility of a successful conclusion to the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear disarmament, which could lead to the gradual opening of that country. The second possibility is a breakthrough in relations between Taiwan and China that could increase direct cross-straits flights for cargo and passengers.
Lowenthal gets chairmanship
California State Sen. Alan Lowenthal, who sponsored legislation to fine terminal operators $250 when trucks with appointments have to wait outside for more than a half hour, has been appointed chairman of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee. Last year, Lowenthal introduced a bill to require Los Angeles and Long Beach marine terminals to stay open nights and weekends. He withdrew the bill after terminal operators developed the PierPass program for after-hours gates. Lowenthal used to serve in the state Assembly. Last year he reached his term limit and ran successfully for the state Senate.