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Cablegate: Latvia to Follow Eu's Lead On New U.S. Law On Maritime

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DE RUEHRA #0700 2631026
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R 201026Z SEP 07
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TO SECSTATE WASHDC 4359

UNCLAS RIGA 000700

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ETRD EWWT AMGT PTER LG

SUBJECT: LATVIA TO FOLLOW EU'S LEAD ON NEW U.S. LAW ON MARITIME
CARGO SCANNING REQUIREMENTS

REF: STATE 119837

1. (SBU) Summary: Latvia is seeking guidance from the European Union
in response to the new U.S. law requiring 100 percent scanning for
all U.S.-bound maritime cargo prior to loading at a foreign port by
2012. GOL representatives expressed concern about the cost of
meeting the new requirement and the potentially negative impact such
a requirement would have on trade and cargo flow. They added that
they plan to follow the European Commission's lead on this issue.
End Summary.

2. (SBU) PolEconOff delivered reftel points September 10 to Harijs
Arnicans, Head of the Ship and Port Security Inspectorate in the
Maritime Administration of Latvia (MAL); September 14 to Aigars
Krastins, Director of the Ministry of Transportation's Maritime
Department; and September 18 to Andis Drulle, Director of the
National Customs Board. All three responded that Latvia would take
direction from the European Commission on how to respond to the new
U.S. law.

3. (U) In Latvia the National Customs Board is responsible for all
cargo scanning and falls under the Ministry of Finance; the Maritime
Department, which is part of the Ministry of Transportation,
implements national policy and strategy development in the maritime
field and represents Latvia in international maritime organizations;
the MAL is a private component of the Ministry of Transportation's
Maritime Department. (Comment: MAL functions as a state agency
within the Maritime Department but is considered a "company" because
its budget comes from shipping dues, not government funds.)

4. (SBU) Mr. Drulle of the National Customs Board said the European
Commission's present position on the U.S. requirement, as he
understands it, is that the requirement would impose an unduly
expensive and unfeasible burden on ports not only in the European
Union but all over the world; as such, current scanning requirements
based on risk analysis should be allowed to continue. Mr. Drulle
said EU member states have estimated that the cost to meet the U.S.
requirement would amount to approximately $20 million per port. He
also said that currently about 250 maritime cargo containers per
month are exported to the United States from Latvia's port in Riga
but none directly. All U.S.-bound maritime containers from Latvia
pass through major Western European ports such as Rotterdam and
Antwerp before reaching U.S. ports.

5. (U) Mr. Arnicans of MAL interpreted the U.S. law as a requirement
affecting all direct U.S.-bound shipping containers. As Latvia does
not have containers going directly to the United States, he asked
what requirements, if any, would the new U.S. law impose on foreign
ports that are loading shipping containers indirectly going to the
United States. (Note, Post is seeking clarification on this
interpretation of the law. End note.)

6. (SBU) Mr. Krastins of the Ministry of Transportion's Maritime
Department said he understood the need for 100 percent scanning of
U.S.-bound maritime cargo, but wondered how feasible it would be to
execute such a requirement on all affected EU ports. He added that,
although Latvia does not at the moment ship cargo directly from
Latvian to U.S. ports, it could be a possibility in the future,
especially if transit through Latvia increases as East-West trade
grows. Mr. Krastins said discussion of the new U.S. requirement,
since it deals primarily with security, should include
representatives from the Ministry of Finance, Interior and Defense.

BAILEY

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