New Articles

Kuwait Under Scrutiny for IP Rights Violations

Kuwait Under Scrutiny for IP Rights Violations

Washington, DC – The U.S. moved Kuwait a notch higher on its Watch List of countries to monitor for potential breaches of U.S. patents, copyrights and other intellectual property (IP) rights.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said Kuwait had failed to introduce a copyright law in line with international standards and to properly protect copyright and trademarks.

According to the USTR, the status of copyright legislation in that country “hampers the market environment for intellectual-property-intensive industries.”

Kuwait’s “lack of sustained enforcement action” against trademark infringement is another reason for the priority-watch designation, he said.

The U.S., Froman added,  is “encouraged” by reported recent progress on enforcement against copyright infringement, by the country’s recent accessions to several intellectual-property-related treaties and seeks to “engage Kuwaiti authorities on these issues in the contest of the long-standing cooperation” between the two countries, according to the statement.

“The U.S. remains concerned about the lack of sustained enforcement action against trademark infringement and the lack of progress in passage of updates to Kuwait’s copyright legislation, which hamper the overall market environment for intellectual property-intensive industries,” he said.

Kuwait will join 10 countries, including India and China, on the “Priority Watch List,” one rung higher than its current status.

More often than not, say observers, a place on the list signals a higher level of scrutiny and diplomatic pressure to bring policies into line.



Mexico Trumps Canada For Major Ford Engine Deal

Detroit, MI – Auto giant Ford has said it will have its 1.5-liter and 1.6-liter Ford Fiesta engines produced in Mexico, rather than at its plants in Windsor and Essex, Ontario, Canada.

Canada lost the bid for the work after both federal and provincial governments were unable to reach an agreement with Ford on incentives for the work.

The City of Windsor, alone, reportedly offered Ford a 10-year, $8.5-million tax freeze to bring the work to its plant.

The Essex and Windsor engine plants manufacture V-8 and V-10 engines for the iconic Ford Mustang, as well as the company’s line of trucks, vans, and SUVs.

According to the Canadian media, had Ford decided to have the work done in Ontario, the investment could have topped $1.8 billion and created 1,000 jobs.

Ford’s announcement, which was made without comment, was offset somewhat with news earlier this month that the company would add 1,000 jobs at its assembly plant in Oakville, Ontario, which will produce the 2015 Ford Edge crossover utility vehicle.

Last year, the company announced a $621 million investment in the Oakville plant.



Waldorf Astoria Hotel Sold to Chinese Investors

New York, NY – China’s Anbang Insurance Group Co. has agreed to pay $1.95 billion for New York City’s iconic Waldorf Astoria hotel, the most ever paid for a standing building in the US by a Chinese buyer.

The purchase of the 1,232-room Art Deco tower on Park Avenue is the biggest real estate deal for a single existing hotel in the entire country and marks the high-water mark of a surge in the acquisition of big-ticket New York City properties by Chinese investors.

Earlier this year, Shanghai-based Greenland Holding Group Inc. purchased this year of a 70 percent interest in the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. The project, recently renamed Pacific Park, includes 14 buildings that are yet to be built.

China’s Fosun International Ltd. paid $725 million in late 2013 for lower Manhattan’s 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza, the former headquarters of Chase Manhattan Bank. The building’s main tenant, JPMorgan Chase & Co., has said it will vacate most of its space in the 60-story tower.

Earlier last year, a group including the co-founder of Shanghai’s Soho China Ltd., put $1.4 billion on the table to acquire a 40 percent stake in midtown Manhattan’s General Motors Building, one of New York’s most-valuable office towers.

According to press sources, including Anbang’s purchase of the Waldorf from Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc., Chinese investors will have bought $2.7 billion of New York-area real estate in 2014, topping last year’s $2.6 billion.

Anbang is reportedly planning a major renovation of the Waldorf, which could include the conversion of some of the hotel’s upper floors into high-end condominiums.


‘Significant Progress’ Seen in Recent TPP Talks

Washington, DC – The recent negotiations between the 12 Pacific Rim nations crafting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement “made significant progress” on proposed rules for state-owned enterprises despite differences over tariffs remaining one of the obstacles to a final deal.

Spanning ten days in Hanoi, the talks “spent successive rounds trying to narrow the gaps,” said US delegation leader, Barbara Weisel, US Trade Representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

The TPP would create a free-trade zone from Australia to Peru with $28 trillion in economic output, or 39 percent of the global total. The deal is seen as a major component of the White House’s effort to bolster boost US exports.

The pact, would be the biggest trade deal in US history. The TPP “goes beyond typical trade agreements that focus on reducing tariffs, and highlights issues such as stricter safeguards for patents and copyrights and leveling the playing field for companies that compete with government-backed businesses,” said Weisel.

Responding to the status of the TPP talks, US Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President and Head of International Affairs Myron Brilliant said, “Now is the time to seize upon the extensive economic benefits that the TPP offers every participating country.”

All parties to the negotiations, he said following a recent USCOC event, “must show the political courage required to make the hard decisions needed to conclude the TPP negotiations soon, as this will not get any easier with time.”

Commenting on what he called the “importance of crafting a high-standard, comprehensive trade agreement,” Brilliant said, “If Japan, the United States, or any negotiating partner cannot meet the high standards of the TPP on market access or rules, then the overall ambition of the agreement will be lowered to the detriment of every nation’s interests. We should all guard against that outcome.”

The proposed TPP’s geopolitical importance, he concluded, “is unmistakable. While we must not subordinate commercial priorities to foreign policy goals, the TPP’s geostrategic importance should strengthen our resolve to achieve an ambitious, comprehensive agreement.”

The countries covered by the trade pact are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and the US.

China, which has been excluded from the TPP, is separately moving on trade talks with countries such as South Korea, Japan and Australia.



Carib Energy Granted ‘Small Scale’ LNG Export License

Jacksonville, FL – Carib Energy LLC has been granted a 20-year, small-scale US Department of Energy (DOE) export license for the supply, transportation and distribution of US-sourced liquefied natural gas (LNG) into several Non-Free Trade Agreement (NTFA) countries in the Caribbean, and Central and South America.

The licensing permits Carib Energy, a subsidiary of the Crowley Maritime Corp., to export 14.6 billion cubic feet (BCF) of LNG – roughly the equivalent of 480,000 gallons – per day via 10,700 gallon ISO-certified tanks to the specified regions.

Earlier in the year, the company was awarded a multi-year contract to supply containerized, US-sourced LNG to two Coca-Cola bottlers in Puerto Rico.

That contract included supplying and transporting the LNG to the two plants in Cayey and Cidra, Puerto Rico.

The LNG “provides both facilities with substantially lowered emissions, an alternative to their current diesel fuel source, and an uninterrupted fuel supply due to the abundance and availability of US-sourced LNG,” the company said.

The transportation of the LNG for all of the company’s new projects is being managed by Crowley’s in-house logistics team, which coordinates shipment of the 40-foot bulk liquid tank containers carrying the LNG from the company’s shipping terminal at the Port of Jacksonville, Florida.

The containers containing the LNG are ISO-certified and approved by the US Department of Transportation to carry approximately 10,000 gallons of the product.

LNG is natural gas that is cooled to -260° Fahrenheit until it becomes a liquid and then stored at essentially atmospheric pressure.

Converting natural gas to LNG, a process that reduces its volume by about 600 times allows it to be transported. Once delivered to its destination, the LNG is warmed back into its original gaseous state so that it can be used just like existing natural gas supplies.

When returned to its gaseous state, LNG is used across the residential, commercial and industrial sectors for purposes as diverse as heating and cooling homes, cooking, generating electricity and manufacturing paper, metal, glass and other materials.

LNG is not stored under pressure and it is not explosive. LNG vapors – methane – mixed with air are not explosive in an unconfined environment. When exposed to the environment, LNG rapidly evaporates, leaving no residue on water or soil.

Founded in 1892 in San Francisco, the Crowley Maritime Corp. entered the LNG market by acquiring Florida-based Carib Energy LLC last year.

Shortly thereafter, Crowley created a specialized LNG services group to offer supply, transportation, and distribution of LNG services utilizing the certified tank containers.


Brazil’s BRIC Cracks on Disappointing Growth Figures

Los Angeles, CA – There’s a serious fissure developing in the BRIC wall as the latest government figures show that Brazil has slipped into recession, with the Latin American giant’s gross domestic product (GDP) contracting for a second consecutive quarter.

According to the official government statistics bureau in Brasilia, the country’s GDP stands at about $567 billion, down 0.6 percent from the previous three months, while revised figures for the first quarter showed a drop of 0.2 percent.

The government had initially had reported first-quarter growth of 0.2 percent.

The country last experienced a recession in late 2008 and early 2 009, when a world economic crisis slashed demand for steel, minerals, farm goods and other key Brazilian exports.

The BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – together represent 18 percent of the world total, are all experiencing slowdowns in their once fast-paced rates of growth. Exacerbating the economic difficulties is Russia’s volatile activity in Ukraine, which has sparked a rash of sanctions on Moscow by the US and the European Union.

Last month, leaders of the five countries met in Brazil and decided to create their own development bank as a counterweight to what they perceive are “western-dominated financial organizations like the US-based World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

The new development bank will reportedly be based in Shanghai and is expected to be functional within two years. It will be capitalized at $50 billion, a figure that could grow to $100 billion to fund infrastructure projects. The fund would also have $100 billion at its disposal “to weather economic hard times.”


‘Electric Highway’ Planned at Ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach

Los Angeles, CA – Next summer, Southern California’s South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) will begin a pilot ‘e-Highway’ system near the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

The first of its kind in the US, the $13.5 million highway project to be built starting in early 2015 will consist of a two-way, 1-mile overhead electric catenary system along a major thoroughfare that runs between both mega-ports.

A catenary system consists of overhead wires that vehicles pass under to receive electrical charges using a pantograph, a contraption mounted on the roof of the vehicle to collect the electrical charges. They are most commonly used by trolleys and streetcars.

The e-Highway concept applies the catenary system to trucks, allowing them to collect electrical power with a pantograph that unfolds from the roof of a truck. After passing under the catenary system, trucks can switch to diesel, compressed natural gas, battery or another on-board energy source.

Up to four demonstration trucks — both battery-electric and hybrid types — will reportedly be used. Trucks on the ‘e-Highway’ will be able to travel at speeds up to 60 mph.

Germany-based global engineering company Siemens will build the catenary system as well as the “current collectors,” which would allow trucks at any speed to link and unlink from the ‘e-Highway.’

According to the AQMD, the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach “are an optimal location for this kind of system because of the high concentration of diesel-powered trucks traveling relatively short distances between the ports and intermodal transfer facilities or distribution warehouses.

AQMD officials hope the demonstration “will lead to a reduction of fossil fuel and toxic air emissions, as well as save on transportation costs.”


New Six-Lane Trade Bridge to Link US, Canada

Detroit, MI – A new US-Canadian authority will oversee the construction, operation and maintenance of a proposed six-lane bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.

The Windsor Detroit Bridge Authority is a non-profit “Crown Corporation” that will report to Ottawa as it manages the project for the New International Trade Crossing.

The authority “will be in charge of preparing the sites and managing the procurement process to select a private-sector partner that will carry out the work, according to Canadian Transport Minister Lisa Raitt.

The agency will also be responsible for setting and collecting tolls, she said.

“The new bridge is needed for growing trade and for growing traffic at Canada’s busiest US commercial border crossing,” said Raitt, adding the project is expected to create thousands of jobs in the coming years.

The next step, she said, involves securing funding for a US Customs facility, along with acquiring land on the US side.

“The project will provide an essential new alternative crossing for Canada’s Continental Gateway and trade corridor,” according to a Canadian government website.

The project, it said, includes a new six-lane bridge across the Detroit River between Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, Michigan, associated border inspection plazas, and connections to the freeway systems in Ontario and Michigan.”

The bridge is scheduled to open in 2020 and is reportedly being funded by the Canadian government, which has earmarked $2 billion to the project.

According to observers, the total cost of the project could reach as much as $4 billion that would include work on freeway interchanges, Canadian and US Customs plazas, and additional infrastructure work.

The final permit for the project was issued last month after a US court rejected a request for an injunction filed by the private company that owns the existing Ambassador Bridge that links Detroit with Windsor.

Another panel, the Canada-Michigan International Authority, is also being formed to approve key steps in the public-private partnership and the purchase of the required land in Michigan, Riatt said.


Talks Begin on New Environmental Trade Pact

Washington, DC – The US and 13 other WTO member nations have launched negotiations on the proposed Environmental Goods Agreement (EGA) in Geneva, Switzerland. 

The EGA aims to eliminate tariffs on environmental technologies that can be as high as 35 percent and, says US Trade Representative Michael Froman, “pose a significant barrier to trade for US companies.”

The EGA negotiations will build on a list of 54 environmental goods on which APEC – Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation – leaders agreed to reduce tariffs to five percent or less by the end of 2015, and will explore a wide range of additional products. 

The APEC list includes a variety of environmental technologies used in a number of environmental applications including renewable and clean energy generation such as solar panels and gas and wind turbines; wastewater treatment; air pollution control; solid and hazardous waste treatment; and environmental monitoring and assessment.

In addition to the US, Australia, Canada, China, Costa Rica, the European Union, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, Switzerland and Taiwan are participating in the negotiations.

The countries involved in the talks generate fully 86 percent, about $1 trillion, of global trade in environmental goods annually.

US exports of environmental goods totaled $106 billion last year and have been growing at an annual rate of eight percent since 2009, according to the US Department of Commerce.

“By eliminating tariffs on the technologies we all need to protect our environment, we can make environmental goods cheaper and more accessible for everyone,” Froman said.


“Basic Framework” in Place for Global Services Pact

Washington, DC – Negotiators will meet next week to work on what US Trade Representative Michael Froman has called a “basic framework” of the proposed working on the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA).

“The basic framework of the agreement is in place, initial market access offers have been exchanged, and sector-specific work in areas like telecommunications and financial services is in full swing,” said Froman.

The TISA, which seeks to free up trade in services from cross-border data flows and monopolies by state-owned enterprises to air pollution monitoring, shipping and postal services, is being negotiated among 50 countries that make up nearly two-thirds of global services trade.

In 2013, US exports of private services measured nearly $659 billion, and the sale of services through foreign affiliates were nearly $1.3 trillion.
Combined then, international sales of services by US companies amount to approximately $1.8 trillion per year with the sector currently generating some 80 percent of the country’s private sector jobs.

According to the European Commission in Brussels, the EU’s service sector accounts for almost 75 percent of gross domestic product and employment.
Taking into account the value added by services such as transport, logistics, finance and communication, the services sector contributes around half the value of total exports in the US, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy, according to the World Trade Organization in Geneva.

In China, where services make up only about 10 percent of gross exports, services value-added amounts are worth nearly one-third of the total.
The WTO estimates that services account for more than 40 percent of world trade, if measured in value-added terms, and two-thirds of the world’s foreign direct investment stock.

The seventh round of TISA talks will take place next week, involving the US, the EU, Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Pakistan, Peru, Switzerland and several other countries.

Combined, the fifty nations represent nearly two-thirds of global trade in services and a combined services market exceeding $30 trillion.