Export trade security . . . and goodbyes

Export trade security . . . and goodbyes

This past month I attended what I felt to be a truly exceptional export compliance seminar that may be the best-kept secret among the existing offering of export compliance conferences. "Partnering for Compliance, 2007" was organized by Partnerships International Inc. in association with the Orlando Air Cargo Association. It was big on value-add despite its diminutive registration fee.

The three-day conference was held on campus at the University of Central Florida. The speaker list read like a Who's Who of government and industry export trade experts, including: Wendy Wysong, deputy secretary of commerce for export enforcement; Gene Christian-sen, senior licensing officer, Bureau of Industry and Security; David Trimble, director of the compliance division of the Office of Defense Trade Controls; Terry Davis, director of the Office of Defense Controls Licensing; William G. Bostic Jr., chief of the Census Bureau's Foreign Trade Division; and Jerome M. Greenwell, the Census Bureau's trade ombudsman.

The conference, limited to 200 registrants, was designed to support the small to medium-sized exporter but also attracted larger companies. This smaller audience facilitates a more intimate, hands-on environment where attendees can freely interact with the trade experts. The resulting open exchange was more like that of a smaller industry roundtable than the static "presentation and applaud" formats typical of larger, more traditional conferences. As one representative from a Fortune 50 high-tech leader put it, "Where else can you go to get this type of informal one-on-one time with these ranking officials?"

I personally found the conference extremely beneficial in that it helped to bring the issue of supply-chain security full circle. While my columns in the JoC have focused predominantly on the import perspective of trade security, the multiple case studies offered by the event's speakers provided chilling reminders that the war against terrorism is being fought every day in the benign trenches of corporate sales and manufacturing departments. In many instances, the very weapons that we fear being introduced into the international supply chain for use within the U.S. require components and/or technology that originated in the U.S.

One current example cited the existing demand for a rather innocuous type of integrated circuit. This simple item, however, represents a key component for remotely triggering improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, that are being built and supplied to insurgents in Iraq for deployment against our troops.

Whether a U.S. supplier of such components lacks effective internal controls for exercising the necessary export due diligence or, worse, is willing to look the other way to book a large sale ultimately makes little difference to a foreign enemy. For those of us whose company's products or technologies fall within this area, keeping them out of enemy hands becomes our greatest responsibility.

That example had particular relevance for me on a personal level. I have recently accepted a job as director of international trade compliance for a global manufacturer, which means that I too now own responsibility for seeing that sensitive products and technologies aren't used to further terrorist objectives.

My new position is an exciting opportunity that aligns precisely with my experience, approach and methodologies for ensuring sound global trade management. It will demand nothing less than my fullest attention and dedication. Therefore, after more than 4 1/2 years, this will be my last monthly "Security Counsel" column for The Journal of Commerce.

I certainly want to thank Peter Tirschwell and the entire JoC staff for extending to me this tremendous privilege - one that has allowed me to share a tiny role in this publication's long and illustrious history as the country's leading voice on international trade. A special thanks to Barbara Wyker, editorial operations chief, who calmly tolerated my often "just-in-time" submissions. And, finally, a heartfelt thanks to the many readers - from both industry and government - and their wonderful notes of encouragement and support. To all, stay safe, stay secure, and God bless.