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January 10, 2002, 9:00 AM ET, Alert No. 343.
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Sen. Baucus Comments on Trade, WTO Round, and TPA
1/9. Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) wrote a commentary titled "Doha and Beyond: The Role of Congress in a New Trade Round" for the January issue of the State Department publication titled "Economic Perspectives". Sen. Baucus is Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over many trade related matters.
Representatives of more than 140 countries met in Doha, Qatar, late last year and agreed to launch a new round of World Trade Organization (WTO) talks. Sen. Baucus listed several issues involved in the next round of WTO talks that are of concern to the Congress, including antidumping and countervailing duty laws, environmental protection, antitrust, and protection of intellectual property.
"The consensus that was struck at Doha," said Baucus, "is a significant blueprint for expanding trade and creating an integrated global economy. The substance of this blueprint, however, points to the continuing need for the United States Congress to play an active and forward looking role in developing U.S. trade policy."
He stated that "the U.S. Constitution grants Congress, not the president or the administrative branch, the power to regulate trade. The administration may do the actual negotiating, but responsibility for making sure that trade agreements reflect the broad needs of the American people lies ultimately in the hands of the Congress. If negotiations are to move forward, Congress needs to be assured that its concerns are reflected in the U.S. agenda, particularly when contentious issues arise."
Antidumping. Sen. Baucus stated that many members of Congress support antidumping and countervailing duty laws. He elaborated that "Industries ranging from steel to semiconductors to a variety of agricultural sectors have been victimized by dumped and subsidized exports from a number of countries".
Environment. He also said that trade agreements must address the environment. He added that "any trade agreement that does not explicitly acknowledge this important connection will most likely face an extremely difficult time being ratified by the Congress."
Antitrust and IPR. Sen. Baucus also said that the next WTO round would affect both U.S. antitrust and IPR laws. He stated that "Work on competition policy holds the potential for reshaping the antitrust system that has evolved over more than a hundred years. Negotiations on intellectual property could undermine protections that the United States has sought to make an integral part of the world trading system."
Trade Promotion Authority. He concluded that "If the president is to be granted TPA in the new year, Congress and the administration need to work together to make sure that the negotiations reflect the concerns expressed by a vast majority of Americans by making sure that trade is both free and fair."
See also, commentary by James Zumwalt titled "How WTO Membership Affects China", in the same State Department publication. Zumwalt, who is Economic Minister Counselor, at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, wrote that "China will take on the obligations of numerous existing WTO agreements covering all aspects of trade, such as agriculture, import licensing, trade related aspects of intellectual property rights, technical barriers to trade, and trade related investment measures." He also wrote that "WTO membership will make China even more attractive to foreign investors. And more money invested in China means more high paying jobs, more government tax receipts, and more technology transfers. China's WTO commitments will facilitate increased competition in every sector of the economy. Chinese consumers will be the direct beneficiaries as competition encourages a larger range of choices, lower prices, and higher quality, not to mention a greater awareness of and appreciation for intellectual property rights and consumer rights."
See also, commentary by Grant Aldonas, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade, titled "Open Trade: Greater Opportunities for All Countries".
People and Appointments
1/9. President Bush announced his intent to nominate Walter Lukken to be a Commissioner of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) for a five year term expiring April 13, 2005. He has been a member of the staff of the Senate Agriculture Committee since 1997. Before that, he was a Legislative Assistant to Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN). See, White House release.
1/9. Intel announced the appointment of 16 vice presidents, including two assistant general counsel. Bruce Sewell is vice president, Legal, and assistant general counsel. He manages the team that provides legal advisory services to the Intel Architecture Group. David Shannon, is vice president, Legal, and assistant general counsel. He is responsible for the legal advisory services for the Intel Communications Group and the Wireless Communications and Computing Group. See, Intel release.
1/9. California Governor Gray Davis appointed three people to the Technology, Trade and Commerce Agency. He named Nelson Chan to be Deputy Secretary of the International Trade and Investment Division, Keith Bovetti to be Assistant Secretary of the International Trade and Investment Division, and Gregory Davis to be Regional Office Director of the Office of Export Development.
Rep. Dingell Asks FCC to Investigate AT&T USF Billing
1/7. Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) wrote a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Michael Powell and the other Commissioners regarding "AT&T's recent announcement that it increased its universal service line-item fee to 11.5% of the monthly bill for residential customers". Universal service requirements, which are codified at 47 U.S.C. 254, provide for subsidies for telecommunications services in rural and high cost areas. Universal service is also the basis of the FCC's e-rate program for schools and libraries.
Dingell wrote that AT&T asserts that this change is made necessary by the FCC's Universal Service Fund (USF) formula. However, noting that "current USF factor is only 6.9% of revenues", Dingell added that AT&T's claim is "puzzling at best".
Dingell continued that "no carrier should be permitted by law to collect from its customers for the universal service line-item fee more than it actually contributes to the fund. It appears that AT&T may be padding its pockets by doing just this. Such behavior would seriously jeopardize the E-rate program for public schools and libraries, as well as the affordability of basic telephone services for rural and low-income consumers."
Dingell concluded by asking the FCC to "perform an investigation of the books and records of AT&T to determine whether the company in fact has collected more from its customers for this line-item fee than it has actually paid to the Government." See also, Dingell release.
Steve Davis, Qwest SVP for policy & law, stated in a release that "AT&T's agenda is clear -- spend millions of dollars to keep Qwest out of the long distance business while skimming billions of dollars from unsuspecting customers through price hikes ... AT&T will continue to increase long distance prices until they have to compete with Qwest."
Federal Circuit Rules in Patent Cases
1/8. The U.S. Court of Appeals (FedCir) issued its opinion in Rheox v. Entact, a patent infringement case. Rheox is the assignee of U.S. Patent No. 5,162,600, titled "Method of Treating Lead Contaminated Soil". It filed a complaint in U.S. District Court (DNJ) against Entact alleging patent infringement. The District Court granted summary judgment to Entact. The Appeals Court affirmed.
1/8. The U.S. Court of Appeals (FedCir) issued its opinion in Talbert Fuel Systems Patents v. Unocal, a patent infringement case. Talbert Fuel Systems Patents is the owner of U.S. Patent No. 5,015,356 titled "Hydrocarbon Fuel Systems". Unocal is the owner of U.S. Patent No. 5,288,393 titled "Gasoline Fuel". Talbert filed a complaint in U.S. District Court (CDCal) against Unocal alleging patent infringement. The District Court granted summary judgment of noninfringement, and declined to declare an interference under 35 U.S.C. 291. The Court of Appeals affirmed.
San Jose Company Sentenced for Wire Fraud
1/8. Advanced Computer Link, Inc., was sentenced in U.S. District Court (NDCal) for one count of wire fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1343. ACL, a San Jose based exporter of computer components, engaged in a double invoicing scheme to defraud the British and Irish governments of value added taxes. Judge Ronald Whyte imposed a sentence requiring ACL to pay a fine of $140,000.
The U.S. Attorneys Office stated in a release that "it would prepare invoices for computer equipment exported to companies in the United Kingdom and Ireland listing a fraudulently low price. This invoice was presented by British and Irish purchasing companies to Customs officials in those countries to be used to compute Value Added Tax ("VAT") owed on the importation of those products, thereby allowing the purchasing companies to defraud the British and Irish governments of tax due and owing on merchandise imported from ACL. Once VAT had been assessed, ACL would send a second invoice to the purchasing British and Irish companies reflecting the true value of the goods, and thereby receive payment for the full market price of the merchandise sold."
More News
1/9. The California Court of Appeal (2/1) issued its opinion [PDF] in Kirkland v. Superior Court, holding that "transcripts of testimony given before the SEC in the course of an investigation are discoverable in civil litigation where, as here, the party from whom discovery is sought has possession of or ready access to the documents and transcripts."
1/9. The U.S. Court of Appeals (FedCir) heard oral argument in Fantasy Sports v., No. 01-1217, an appeal from the U.S. District Court (EDVa). This is a patent infringement case regarding U.S. Patent 4,918,603, titled "Computerized Statistical Football Game". (D.C. No. 99 CV-2131103; opinion at F. Supp. 2d 886.)
1/9. The U.S. Court of Appeals (FedCir) heard oral argument in ManTech Telecommunications v. US, No. 01-5090.
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Asst. Commerce Sec. Mehlman Addresses Broadband Issues
1/9. Bruce Mehlman, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Technology Policy, gave a speech at a Federal Communications Bar Association (FCBA) lunch titled "Broadband, When? A View from the Administration." The Bush administration, said Mehlman, believes that broadband technologies will provide many benefits, and it wants to facilitate its deployment and adoption; however, the administration is not yet ready to announce a broadband policy.
Mehlman did not take a position on many current broadband related debates, such as HR 1542, the Tauzin Dingell bill. However, he offered his review of what the major federal and local issues are. He listed the key federal issues as unbundled network element (UNE) regulations, forced access to broadband platforms, cable and spectrum ownership caps, building access, spectrum allocation, prices for access to federal rights of way, and enforcement penalties. He listed the key state and local issues as prices for access to rights of way, tower siting regulations, building codes, zoning regulations, historic preservation rules, and taxation of broadband deployment.
Mehlman reviewed the division of responsibilities between the various components of the Department of Commerce. He said that the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which is headed by Nancy Victory, has spectrum management responsibilities. In the area of broadband policy, the NTIA is taking the lead on supply side issues. The Office of Technology Policy, which Mehlman heads, is taking the lead on demand side issues.
Scott Harris, Co-chair of the FCBA's Online Communications Committee, and organizer of the luncheon, asked Mehlman about what the Department of Commerce is doing about state and local roadblocks to broadband deployment. Harris commended the FCC, but added that when "you get to the states, it's like dealing with French bureaucrats." Mehlman said that the NTIA is leading on this topic; it is developing a set of "best practices" that "will enable broadband deployment within a state." Mehlman also said that some states are "prioritizing bandwidth", while some "other states haven't gotten it yet." He did not name any states.
Mehlman listed several reasons why the administration supports broadband deployment. These include promoting economic growth through costs savings and increased productivity, improving health care through such things as 24-7 patient monitoring and expert consultations for remote areas, improving education through distance learning, increasing access to information about government, and providing more online government services.
He also said that deployment and use of broadband services has taken on added importance since the events of September 11. He stated that broadband technologies could improve homeland defense through "cockpit monitoring" and "biometric security". He elaborated that you "need a high speed data network to bounce it off the latest database".
Mehlman also said that broadband would facilitate "emergency information distribution", such as getting video to FEMA officials before they have people on site at disaster locations. He also said that broadband is important for "off site data backup", so that if buildings are destroyed, data is not lost. Finally, he said that "video conferencing will allow continued economic output with reduced travel".
Mehlman concluded by stating that "technology development is the key" to broadband deployment and adoption. He listed several examples. Consumer technology has to become more "plug and play". Applications must be developed to drive consumer demand. Wireless broadband technologies must be developed. And, digital rights management (DRM) challenges must be addressed.
Monday, Jan 14
9:30 AM. The U.S. Court of Appeals (DCCir) will hear oral argument in Sinclair Broadcast Group v. FCC, No. 01-1079. Judges Sentelle, Rogers and Williams will preside.
9:30 AM. The U.S. Court of Appeals (DCCir) will hear oral argument in COMSAT Corp v. FCC, No. 00-1458. Judges Sentelle, Rogers and Williams will preside.
Tuesday, Jan 15
8:30 AM - 5:00 PM. The North American Numbering Council (NANC) will meet. Location: FCC, 445 12th Street, SW, Room TW-C305 (Commission Meeting Room).
1:30 PM. The U.S. International Telecommunication Advisory Committee (ITAC) will hold a meeting. See, notice in Federal Register, October 17, 2001, Vol. 66, No. 201, Page 52825. Location: State Department.
Wednesday, Jan 16
8:30 AM - 5:00 PM. The North American Numbering Council (NANC) may continue its meeting of January 15, if necessary. Location: FCC, 445 12th Street, SW, Room TW-C305 (Commission Meeting Room).
11:00 AM. The Cato Institute will host a panel discussion titled "Closing 'Windows' on Antitrust or Opening a New Era of Intervention? Competition Policy after the Microsoft Settlement". The participants will be Jeffrey Eisenach (Progress and Freedom Foundation), Robert Levy (Cato), Kenneth Starr (Kirkland & Ellis), Jonathan Zuck (Association for Competitive Technology), and James Miller (Citizens for a Sound Economy). A luncheon will follow. See, online registration page. Location: Cato Institute, 1000 Massachusetts Avenue, NW.