What happens in the regulatory arena over the next year depends in great measure on how disciplined Congress becomes. For example, where will budget cuts hit the various regulatory agencies? Will new laws be enacted that require agencies to take on significant new responsibilities but provide no additional funding, staffing or equipment? Will we see a miscellaneous tariff bill, new free trade agreements or trade promotion agreements? Will the Trans-Pacific Partnership or the European Union-U.S. free trade agreement be realized?
On the agency side, will Customs finally get a permanent commissioner? David Aguilar has done an excellent job, but the position is a political one and being a political appointee brings with it certain access and credentials that are markedly different than those of a career officer, no matter how good he or she may be.
The question at the Food and Drug Administration concerns when the Food Safety Modernization Act will be implemented. Many deliverables are seriously behind schedule. The trade community is concerned about what the Voluntary Qualified Importer Program will look like and its cost.
Another area of keen interest is how export reform finally plays out. Will Congress get to the point where the needed legislative changes are enacted, or are we left to see only the changes resulting from executive orders?
Another and equally important overarching theme for 2013 is more enforcement by more agencies resulting in higher fines and the expanded use of criminal prosecutions. The recently published Foreign Corrupt Practice Act guidelines did nothing to undermine the trade community’s long-held conclusion that internal controls and strong, effective compliance programs are critical to a company’s survival, regardless of its size or area of inquiry.