Written by Sophia Nisha, Senior Director, Denied Party Screening solutions, Descartes Systems Group

Recently, I had the privilege of attending as an exhibitor at the Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) 2024 Update Conference held in Washington D.C. This year, the event boasted an impressive attendance of over 1100 individuals, marking a notable rise from the previous conference held in 2022. The BIS conference has consistently been an excellent platform for industry professionals, government officials, and policymakers to come together and exchange valuable insights. I am excited to share my experience and shed light on important learnings from this significant event. 

Key Takeaways

  • New Anti-boycott List and Guidance for Freight Forwarders: Assistant Secretary Mathew Axelrod introduced an anti-boycott list to aid freight forwarders in navigating international trade regulations, promoting fair trade practices. 
  • Updated “Don’t Let This Happen to You”: A new version of the BIS’ annual compilation of enforcement actions was released. Regulators reflected on the record number of convictions and export denial orders in 2023, and the largest monetary fine issued in BIS history.  
  • Dynamic Enforcement Landscape: BIS emphasized that addressing national security threats necessitates continuous expansion of regulations and enforcement strategies. 
  • Entity List Expansion: Experts reviewed changes to the entity list and stressed the need for vigilance, urging businesses to stay informed and proactively adhere to export control rules. 
  • Strengthening Trade and Export Compliance Content: Descartes announced its acquisition of OCR. A move that is aimed at enhancing effective compliance with export control regulations for users. 

Major Learnings from 2024 BIS Update Conference on Export Controls and Policy 

The 36th BIS Update Conference, which kicked off on March 27, 2024, served as a vital forum for exchanging insights, fostering collaboration, and staying abreast of the latest developments in export controls. Sessions covered a diverse range of subjects, including the intricacies of new export controls on semiconductor manufacturing equipment and advanced computing rule, regulatory updates, and insights into regulatory frameworks such as EAR part 744 controls, Foreign Direct Product Rules and the BIS expanded export control approach to Russia and China. We had the opportunity to engage in interactive sessions such as “Ask the Interagency”. There were also sessions which provided attendees with practical tips for license applications. Other highlights I found memorable were discussions on human rights due diligence and the need for collaborative efforts for effective export control management. Below is an overview of some of the valuable insights I gained at the BIS 2024 Update conference. 

New Guidance for Freight Forwarders and Antiboycott List 

One of the highlights of the conference was the announcement made by Assistant Secretary for Export Enforcement, Mathew Axelrod. He unveiled new guidance for freight forwarders and introduced an antiboycott list. 

The antiboycott provisions of the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) encourage, and in specified cases, require U.S. persons to refuse to participate in unsanctioned foreign boycotts.  

The newly released antiboycott list contains about 150 entities that have asked companies to boycott goods from certain countries. This development aims to address the challenges faced by businesses while navigating through international trade regulations, enabling them to better comply with the BIS antiboycott regulations. 

The introduction of this guidance reflects the commitment of the BIS to promote fair trade practices as well as encourage effective export compliance measures to protect the global supply chain and counter illegal exports. 

Don’t Let This Happen to You 

The Assistant Secertary for Export Enforcement also announced an updated version of “Don’t Let this Happen to You” which is a compilation of BIS’ criminal and administrative enforcement actions. It serves as a stark reminder of the importance of having strong export and trade compliance programs.  

According to the Assistant Secretary, the number of case summaries included in this recent update show a significant rise in enforcement actions. He also shared that in 2023, the BIS recorded its highest single monetary penalty ever with a fine of $300m. Another notable case he spoke about during the conference, involved the devices and electronic components used by Russia which were found on the battle fields of Ukraine. Last year BIS initiated efforts to pinpoint U.S. companies and distributors within supply chains that continued to ship high priority items to Russia. BIS sent “red flag” letters to the identified companies encouraging them to strengthen their export screening process and avoid engaging with bad actors.  

This case reminded me of the recent updates made by the Department of Commerce on the second anniversary of the Russia-Ukraine war. It implemented more stringent export controls on a list of high priority items that Russia seeks for its weapons programs. You can read our coverage of the new regulations that were introduced by BIS and other U.S. regulators. 

The BIS emphasized a commitment to enforcing consistently and aggressively to protect national security interests and deter violations. Organizations were advised to exercise heightened due diligence in their supply chains and invest in robust export compliance solutions. 

Ongoing National Security Threats from China and Russia 

During various presentations and panel discussions, it became evident that China and Russia continue to pose significant national security threats. Experts emphasized the importance of vigilance in protecting sensitive technologies and trade secrets, highlighting the crucial function of export controls in safeguarding national security interests. Front-end compliance efforts were underscored for both industry players and government agencies. BIS officials described their intention to foster transparency and support industry players in staying compliant through extensive education outreach, guidance documents, and best practices. As global trade dynamics evolve, it is imperative for businesses to stay updated on potential risks arising from these regions. 

Entity List Updates and Expansion

BIS recapped the extensive additions, removals, and modifications to the entity list in the past year. These updates reflect ongoing efforts to safeguard national security and prevent the unauthorized transfer of sensitive technologies to restricted entities.  

Organizational Repositioning

Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Export Administration Thea D. Rozman Kendler announced organizational changes to the Export Administration to tackle geopolitical challenges associated with advanced and emerging technology.  You can read the remarks here

Updates from Descartes: OCR Aquisition 

Another notable event during the conference that garnered significant interest from attendees was the announcement of the recent acquisition of OCR by Descartes. As a leading provider of global trade compliance solutions and content, Descartes acquired OCR to boost its global trade content library, providing increased capabilities for customers and partners in the areas of: 

1.    Controlled goods/licensing 
2.    License determination content 
3.    Technical data exports 
4.    Visitor management for ITAR facilities 

 For more information on this acquisition, read the full Descartes Press Release. 

In Conclusion

Beyond the informative sessions and announcements, the conference also provided ample opportunities for networking and collaboration. Exhibitors and attendees from various industries and sectors had the chance to connect, exchange ideas, and explore potential partnerships. Engaging in discussions with thought leaders and experts enabled participants to gain further insights into emerging trends and challenges in the field of international trade.

During the Conference, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) solicited feedback from the private sector on reducing the burden on U.S. exporters. In response, I recommended that the GAO consider publishing exhaustive lists, as this would not only alleviate the burden on exporters but also help reduce the high costs associated with conducting extensive research to ensure compliance. By implementing this recommendation, the GAO can support businesses in streamlining their compliance efforts and allocating resources more efficiently, ultimately fostering economic growth and enhancing the competitiveness of U.S. exporters in the global market. The message was well received, and rest assured we will follow up with them.

How Descartes Helps Strengthen Your Export Compliance Efforts

Descartes is a provider of an industry-leading suite of trade compliance solutions including trade content for leading business systems, denied party screening, 3rd party risk management, export classification and documentation automation solutions, that can be integrated with minimal disruption, sometimes in under an hour.

Descartes Visual Compliance and Descartes MK Denied Party Screening solutions are flexible and modular, allowing organizations to pick the specific and exact functionality and content they need for their particular compliance needs and scale up later as and when necessary. If you would like to discuss your software requirements to boost trade compliance efficiency and productivity, you can book a meeting with me or contact us for a demo.

Find out what our customers are saying about Descartes Denied Party Screening on G2 – an online third-party business software review platform. Additionally, you can read this essential buyer’s guide to denied party screening to help you select a solution that fits your needs.