An Export Can Occur Wholly in the U.S.

woman scanning box
May 9, 2017

Wait! What!!! That doesn’t make sense!!?? An export means a thing is leaving the U.S. and going to another country. How can an export possibly occur wholly within the U.S.? 

Well, let’s noodle this one out together. In explaining the implications of U.S. export controls, I find it’s best to take a common-sense approach. 

Let’s say we have an item, a tangible thing, that we know is controlled by U.S. export control laws.  The U.S. government has an interest (national security, foreign policy, regional stability, economic security, or other interest) in controlling that item.  It requires a license or government approval prior to export for that item. 

Ok, now let’s say I have the blueprints that show how to make that item. I put them in an international express mailing tube and ship them to a foreign country. The U.S. government would have an interest in that, right?  If the U.S. government controls export of the item, it would also likely control export of the technology to make the item. Makes sense. 

Now stay with me. 

I have a foreign engineer in the office next to me. She works at my company. She has a work visa and is legally in the U.S. I walk out my office and into her office and show her the blueprints. The U.S. government “deems” this to be an export to her home country. Does the U.S. government have an interest? Sure. Sharing technology or technical data is knowledge that cannot be taken back. Should it matter that she is in the U.S. when I give her the export controlled information (or for that matter tell it to her, or show her how I manufacture the item on a plant tour, or press the send button on my computer and share the blueprint with her)? No, it does not matter where she is located for export control purposes. The sharing of controlled technology or technical data in the U.S. with a “foreign person” is a “deemed export” controlled under U.S. law that may require a license or other approval prior to export (it is an export). As an added benefit of this brain teaser, you have also learned that a work visa is not an export license! 

Contributed by Jean Schtokal, Foster Swift. 

View the on-demand webinar “Going Global: The Basics of Exporting” with Kendra Kuo, Director, U.S. Commercial Service – Grand Rapids Office.