Thursday, January 31, 2008

Border Crossing: NEXUS Users Reminded to File Renewals on Time

The Department of Customs and Border Protection has issued a reminder for NEXUS participants to renew their enrollments on time.

Many NEXUS enrollments began expiring in June and Customs officials are asking that NEXUS members begin their application renewal 90 days prior to their expiration date.

To continue their membership in the program, applicants must:

• Submit an application and go through a registration process

• Satisfy the eligibility criteria

• Be admissible to United States and Canada

• Pass risk assessments by both countries

Members may apply on-line at, by clicking on Travel at the top of the screen and then clicking on Trusted Traveler Programs on the left-hand side of the Web page.

Participants without computer access can submit their application by mail to: NEXUS Program, P.O. Box 126, Niagara Falls, ONL2E 6T1, CANADA.

The application processing fee of $50 (U.S. or Canadian funds) and is non-refundable. Children under the age of 18 must also apply but are free of charge.

The renewed membership will be valid for another five years.

U.S. DOT Updates Regulations on Transporting Hazardous Materials

(World Trade Interactive)

The Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has issued a final rule, effective Oct. 1, amending the Hazardous Materials Regulations to update, clarify or provide relief from certain requirements governing the classification, packaging or labeling of hazardous materials transported in commerce. PHMSA’s amendments include:

• adding a new entry to the Hazardous Materials Table for ethanol and gasoline blends with more than 10 percent alcohol;

• expanding the exceptions from regulation for small quantities of hazardous materials;

• updating provisions incorporating consensus standards issued by the Chlorine Institute and the Compressed Gas Association;

• adding a definition for “household wastes” to clarify the current exception in the HMR for transportation of such materials;

• revising the HMT to harmonize certain entries with international standards by removing, adding and revising certain proper shipping names;

• revising certain hazard communication provisions to address shipping paper requirements for marine pollutants, marking requirements for limited quantities, proper shipping name markings on packages and labeling of intermediate bulk containers;

• clarifying requirements applicable to the transportation of dry ice on aircraft, detonator assemblies and packagings authorized for the transportation of certain explosives;

• clarifying that a shipper must use a carrier with a safety permit to transport hazardous materials for which safety permits are required as specified under the federal motor carrier safety regulations; and

• clarifying segregation requirements for hazardous materials transported by motor carrier.

The Federal Register notice is available here.

Nutrition Labelling Transition Period

(Canadian Food Inspection Agency)

As of December 12, 2007, the nutrition labelling transition period has passed. The CFIA website has been updated to reflect these changes in the following documents:

Chapter 5 of the 2003 Guide to Food Labelling and Advertising [nutrition labelling]

Chapter 7 of the 2003 Guide to Food Labelling and Advertising [nutrient content claims]

Chapter 12 of the 2003 Guide to Food Labelling and Advertising [honey]

Chapter 13 of the 2003 Guide to Food Labelling and Advertising [maple products]

Chapter 15 of the 2003 Guide to Food Labelling and Advertising [fish and fish products]

Section J of the Nutrition Labelling Toolkit [evaluation standard – introduction]

Section J2 of the Nutrition Labelling Toolkit [evaluation standard – label]

Section B of the Nutrition Labelling Toolkit [What Products May Carry a Nutrition Facts Table?]

Information Letter: Carbohydrate Claims on Foods Sold in Canada

Information Bulletin: Nutrition Labelling Regulations and Foods Sold in Restaurants and Food Service Establishments

Canadian Border and Trade Agencies Investigate Allegations of China Steel Dumping

(The Canadian Press)

The Canada Border Services Agency said Thursday it is investigating allegations of dumping and subsidizing of certain carbon steel welded pipe from China after a complaint was made by ArcelorMittal out of Montreal.

Also Thursday, the Canadian International Trade Tribunal said it will look into the complaints and decide by March 25 if the alleged dumping and subsidizing has injured the domestic steel industry.

“If there is a large increase in harmful imports and the Tribunal decides that retroactive application of anti-dumping or countervailing duty is justified, duty could be levied on the goods brought into Canada as of today,’’ the tribunal said in a statement.

According to the border agency, ArcelorMittal alleges that the dumping is creating “price erosion, price suppression, lost sales, reduced market share, lost revenues, reduced profitability, reduced production and overcapacity, lost employment and plant shut downs, increased inventory levels and impairment to make future investments.’’

Dumping occurs when goods are sold to importers in Canada at prices that are less than their selling prices in the exporter’s domestic market or at unprofitable prices. Subsidizing occurs when goods imported into Canada benefit from foreign government financial assistance. The Special Import Measures Act protects Canadian producers from the damaging effects of such unfair trade.

Officials at ArcelorMittal could not immediately be reached for comment.

Arcelor SA acquired Hamilton-based Dofasco in 2006, and in 2007 Dofasco became a part of ArcelorMittal after Mittal Steel bought Arcelor, to create the world’s largest steelmaker.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

How Low Can Oil Prices Go?

(Stephen Poloz, Export Development Canada)

Oil prices have broken below the psychologically-important $90 level, leading speculators who have bet heavily on $100-plus oil to consider bailing out of the market. For real consumers, in contrast, this is good news – and the question is, how much better can it get?

There is a wide dispersion of views on the future. Just a year ago many thought oil prices were headed below $50, while today some believe they are headed above $100. A non-economist might wonder what changed during the past 12 months to account for such shifts. Certainly, the arguments that are made to support forecasts are not new – rapid growth in Asia, political risk in the Middle East, a perception that conventional sources of oil are drying up, and the like.

Consider the connection between economic growth and oil demand, which is not as tight as one might expect. The world economy grew by nearly 5% in 2007, but the demand for oil rose by only 1%. Fact is, since 1975 the world has nearly doubled its ratio of GDP to oil consumption. This is partly due to switches to other energy sources. But even if we use a broader measure of energy use, taking all sources into account, the world has seen a 50% improvement in the last 30 years. For the U.S., overall energy efficiency has doubled, while for China it has almost quadrupled!

Of course, a big part of the downshift in oil use over the past 30 years happened in the early 1980s, after the oil price shocks of the late 1970s. In the U.S. there was a 60% increase in the fuel efficiency of vehicles between 1975 and 1982. Consumers switched from large cars to mid-size cars, and to a lesser extent to small cars. Large cars fell from around 30% of sales to 18% during 1975-80. But then oil prices eased, and the pressure to conserve eased as well. By 2007, 35% of the vehicles sold in America were large. Vehicle weights have moved back up to 1970s levels, horsepower is up and truck sales as a share of the total are up significantly. Nevertheless, anecdotal evidence suggests that consumers are once again shifting toward fuel efficiency.

Such consumer shifts can have a big impact on the demand for oil, but they take time, especially now that the importance of the U.S. to this equation is lower. Back in 1975, the U.S. had 40% of the world’s cars, and now that number is around 20%. China and India only account for 3-4% of the world’s vehicle population. They are rising fast, but at least those cars are small.

Oil production analysis only complicates the forecast. Old fields see declining yields, but new technologies permit increased recovery. New discoveries from deep offshore exploration have added considerably to long-term capacity. The IEA estimates that non-OPEC suppliers alone will manage to raise production by about 1 million barrels per day in 2008 – enough to satisfy the global increase in demand, according to our forecast. And Saudi Arabia is boosting output, too.

The bottom line? There are a lot of unknowns buried in every oil price forecast. But it looks like production capacity is rising faster than demand, consumers are adjusting to high prices, and speculation and leverage have played a big role in the latest run-up. This makes the risks for 2008 look decidedly asymmetric – oil prices are likely to trend lower, at least for now.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

UPS Expanding Global Service in Wake of US Economic Downturn

(Canadian Transportation Logistics)

United Parcel Service (UPS) is expanding an international air-freight service that guarantees delivery dates in the wake of a slowing US economy, the Toronto Star reports.

The UPS Express Freight service will more than triple the amount of express lanes currently served, UPS officials said.

The service, which now reaches 52 countries, is designed to provide guaranteed time-definite, overnight-to-three day door-to-door delivery including routine customs clearance to major global metropolitan areas.

UPS has been boosting international revenue at a faster rate than in the US, where the economic expansion is waning, according to the Toronto Star. The report said UPS international operations accounted for 28% of the company's total revenue in 2006.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Consumer Safety Agency to Post Inspectors at Biggest Ports


The federal agency that polices children’s toys and other consumer goods will permanently station employees at the nation’s largest ports for the first time in response to congressional and public outcry over recalls. Acting Consumer Product Safety Commission Chairwoman Nancy Nord said she is coordinating an effort to focus CPSC employees on suspect shipments and high-risk products. ‘We will be starting at the busiest ports, the ports where the most products come in. That’s Long Beach, that’s Seattle, there are a number of other ones,’ Nord said. Staffing for the permanent port presence is undetermined since CPSC received a $17 million budget bump when Congress approved $80 million for the agency last month.

CPSC staff at ports will not be authorized to turn away dangerous cargo, but it can advise U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials who have the power to deny unsafe products entry into the country. CPSC employees are posted near ports and sometimes conduct inspections, but they also are assigned other duties. The permanent port staff will have access to information on recalls and high-risk products through a tracking system CPSC is developing, Nord said.

The House passed a consumer product safety bill before recess. Nord praised the bipartisan bill that requires third-party certification of children’s toys, reduces the allowable lead level in toys and implements a tracking system to aid store-owners during recalls, but she is not as amenable to a more stringent Senate bill crafted by Democrats. Read the full story.

NAFTA Surface Trade Gains

(The Journal of Commerce)

Trade using surface transportation between the United States and North American Free Trade Agreement partners Canada and Mexico hit a new monthly high in October.

The record $74.2 billion in goods carried by truck, rail and pipeline in October topped the previous monthly high of $69.8 billion, set in March 2007, by 6.4 percent….

The value of North American surface trade was 11.1-percent higher than in October a year ago. The value of U.S. trade with Canada and Mexico has grown steadily since NAFTA went into effect in January, 1994…

Surface transportation trade with Canada in October totaled $47.7 billion, up 14.1 percent on-year. U.S.-Mexico surface transportation climbed 6 percent to $26.6 billion.

Staffing Shortages at U.S. Border Jeopardize Security, Economy


Both national security and economic growth are jeopardized by an overtaxed and dysfunctional system for inspecting people and goods at U.S. land ports of entry. That was the picture painted by government officials, federal employee representatives and business leaders testifying Thursday at a House Homeland Security Committee field hearing in El Paso, Texas.

Staffing shortages and poor training among border personnel, along with outdated facilities, an overwhelming workload, and the absence of standardized, tamperproof travel document requirements are contributing to long wait times and security lapses at U.S. borders, officials said.

Thomas Winkowski, assistant commissioner for field operations at Customs and Border Protection, the Homeland Security bureau directly responsible for vetting people and goods entering the country, said CBP is counting on implementation of the repeatedly-delayed Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative to both improve security and facilitate legitimate cross-border trade. U.S., Canadian and Bermudian citizens now entering the United States across land and sea borders are not required to present any specific set of identity or citizenship documents. Read the full story.

FDA Develops New Tools to Further Improve the Security of Food and Cosmetics

(U.S. Food and Drug Administration)

Effort part of Food Protection Plan for ensuring the safety of domestic and imported foods eaten by American consumers

As part of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) comprehensive Food Protection Plan initiative, the agency today released self-assessment tools for industry to minimize the risk of intentional contamination of food and cosmetics. The tools are companion pieces designed to make previously issued industry guidance documents more user-friendly and practical.

Food protection is one of FDA’s top priorities and that means guarding against both intentional and unintentional contamination of foods. “The tools FDA is providing will help members of the food and cosmetic industry identify opportunities to better guard against intentional contamination of their products,” said CFSAN Acting Center Director David Acheson.

In 2003, FDA issued a set of Food and Cosmetic Security Preventive Measures Guidance documents. These documents are aimed at operators of food and cosmetic establishments, as well as businesses that produce, process, store, repack, relabel, distribute, sell or transport foods, food ingredients, and cosmetics to help them minimize the risk of malicious, criminal, or terrorist actions involving products under their control.

The guidance documents are:

• Food Producers, Processors, and Transporters: Food Security Preventive Measures Guidance
• Importers and Filers: Food Security Preventive Measures Guidance
• Retail Food Stores and Food Service Establishments: Food Security Preventive Measures Guidance
• Cosmetics Processors and Transporters: Cosmetics Security Preventive Measures Guidance
• Dairy Farms, Bulk Milk Transporters, Bulk Milk Transfer Stations and Fluid Milk Processors
Food Security Preventive Measures Guidance

Using feedback from industry, the FDA repackaged the information found in the guidance documents and created a corresponding self-assessment tool for each document. By using the tools, industry members can get a quick and detailed assessment of the measures they currently have in place to protect against intentional contamination of their products. With this consolidated information, it will be easy for them to see where meaningful improvements to their current practices can be made.

The self-assessment tool asks the participant to mark the presence of a variety of food protection measures with a Y (Yes), N (No), N/A (Not Applicable), or Don’t Know for each item.

Examples of measures addressed by the self-assessment tools include the possibility of product tampering; identification of security procedures and responsibilities; and evaluation of response strategies in the event of product tampering or other intentional contamination.

The Food and Cosmetic Security Preventive Measures Guidance documents and self assessment tools can be found here.