Legal and Regulatory

Deadline for consultation on U.S. export control approaches with potential ramifications for 3D printing

Soon, the window for comment on proposed U.S. trade tariffs for emerging technologies, including 3D printing, will close. On December 19, 2018, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Industry (BIS) and Security will end its consultation on the contents of the Commerce Control List (CCL) which seeks to develop criteria for new segments that have an influence on national security.

Once these views are collected, the BIS then hopes to propose new Export Control Classification Numbers (ECCNs) for the emerging technologies, which would impose further regulation on their global distribution.

U.S. trade tariffs with China

This most recent proposed “Review of Controls for Certain Emerging Technologies” follows previous trade tariff amendments that amounted to 25% extra duty charges on $34 billion worth of U.S. imports from China. At a glance, it could be argued that many of the subheadings listed by the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) already serve to classify different types of 3D printers coming in to the U.S. For example:

“Machinery for agglomerating, shaping or molding solid mineral fuels, or other mineral products; machines for forming sand foundry molds.”

“Parts & accessories for machines of heading 8456 to 8461 used to make printed circuits or PCAs, parts of heading 8517 or computers.”

“Machines for working wire of metal or cermets, without removing material.”

At the time these charges were changed we sought comment from 3D printing industry experts, including Xponential Works founder Avi Reichental, Shu Peng, founder of Peopoly, and Christophe Mandy, Manufacturing Lead at Formlabs, to attempt to discern whether the industry saw it as a threat, opportunity or a distraction to development.

Though many were forthcoming with their opinion, a larger number of companies were unwilling to provide their views on the issue creating what Michael Petch, 3D Printing Industry Editor in Chief, termed a “chilling effect” for those wishing to avoid any backlash.

Avi Reichental at TED2014. Photo by James Duncan Davidson.

Does the U.S. need more control over the export of 3D printers?

In contrast to the trade tariffs from July 2018, the new proposed rulemaking directly references additive manufacturing and 3D printing as “general categories of technology” for which it is seeking six comments:

1. A clear definition of the technology for appropriate classification.

2. Its importance to national security.

3. Its development status in other countries.

4. Its importance to U.S. national security.

5. Its impact on the technological leadership of the U.S.

6. And a suggested maturity or TRL after which it would be appropriate to control its export.

With regard to a technology’s bearing on national security in particular, the government is seeking advice on whether “they have potential conventional weapons, intelligence collection, weapons of mass destruction, or terrorist applications,”

“or could provide the United States with a qualitative military or intelligence advantage.”

With regard to the impact on the U.S. relationship with China Xu Nanping, the Vice Minister of Science and Technology, took a strong and positive stance on the proposed export changes.

Speaking to South China Morning Post, Xu said, “China can depend on itself to innovate, and further open up the world market to receive technologies from other countries,”

“But what will happen to American companies? Losing the China market, they will lose the incentive to innovate.”

Xu Nanping, vice minister of China's Ministry of Science and Technology. Photo via CGTN
Xu Nanping, vice minister of China’s Ministry of Science and Technology. Photo via CGTN

Have your say

As with our previous comment from industry stakeholders surrounding U.S. trade tariffs, we are now looking for expert opinion on the BIS’s proposed Review of Controls for Certain Emerging Technologies, and what it could mean for the industry as a whole. Please contact us if you would like to share your thoughts, on or off the record.

Anyone wishing to add their comment for consideration by the BIS in its Review of Controls for Certain Emerging Technologies can do so here.

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Featured image shows the seal of the United States Bureau of Industry and Security. Image property of the United States Government