Few takers for export permit for Strategic Trade Act items

KUCHING: There is lukewarm response from companies in Sarawak to register and obtain permits to export “strategic products” to protect themselves from possible prosecution in a foreign country.

This was despite the full implementation of the Strategic Trade Act (STA) 2010 since April last year.

Malaysia is the second Asean country after Singapore to introduce the legislation, which has been in existence in the United States for some 50 years.

Strategic trade controller Mohamed Shahabar Abdul Kareen said the Act provided control over the export, transhipment, transit and brokering of strategic items and other activities that might facilitate the design, development and production of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems.

“The Act protects Malaysian exporters from being used as a channel for supplying illegal strategic goods, and makes Malaysia a safer country to trade with,” he said at a briefing on the Act at the International Trade and Industry Ministry’s Sarawak regional office at Bank Negara building in Jalan Satok here yesterday.

Strategic items include dual use items – those used in commercial activities but also have military use – and arms and related materials.

Examples of strategic items on the STA Product list include nuclear materials, facilities and equipment, navigation and avionics, aerospace and propulsions, telecommunications and information security, electronics, sensors and lasers, computers, chemicals and materials processing. (Full list is available on www.miti.gov.my)

Up to last Thursday, 362 companies nationwide have been registered under the Act. Out of this, 88 have obtained approvals from the ministry’s Strategic Trade Secretariat for their internal compliance programme, which is a pre-requisite for companies to obtain bulk and multiple-use permits valid for two years.

To date, a total of 3,317 permits and nine broker certificates have been issued under the Act.

“Very few Sarawak companies – fewer than 10 and which include multi-national oil firms and manufacturers – have registered under the Act to export their products.

“Many Sarawak companies may not be aware of the Act.

“Malaysian companies (in general) are quite complacent as they think they could get away with the laws. Ignorance of the laws is not a defence,” said Mohamed.

Advising local companies to treat the Act seriously, he cited a case where five Singaporeans who imported large quantities of remote control devices were extradited to the US to be charged for allegedly defying the US exports laws.

Similar remote control devices, which were used to open automatic gates and car doors, were said to have been used to ignite roadside bombs that killed many American soldiers in Iraq.

Mohamed said although remote control devices were not controlled items, these could be misused to trigger bombs if they fell into the wrong hands.

He said Sarawak’s thriving oil and gas industry as well as the shipbuilding industry could be using sophisticated equipment and dual use items that come under the Act.

“Shipbuilders in Sibu and Miri (who export sophisticated vessels) are the ones we want to tackle.

“We are also concerned about Bintulu Port, as it is a transhipment hub for Sabah and Sarawak,” he said.

Mohamed said it was essential for a shipbuilder, for example, to furnish details on the end user (buyer of the boat) when applying for an export permit under the Act.

“If we believe that the export permit (of the strategic products) is for the wrong use, we could refuse to issue it. Export permits are only for legitimate end users.”

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