The United States (and many other countries) have export control laws forbidding the export of certain things to certain countries, including China. Violating U.S. export control laws is serious business, and yet I find that many companies either are not aware of such laws or just do not seem to take them seriously when exporting to China.

I was reminded of that today after reading of how a subsidiary of United Technologies was just fined more than USD$75 million by the U.S. Justice Department for having exported software to China ” knowing it would be used in the development of a military attack helicopter in violation of the U.S. arms embargo with China.” A few years ago, a company came to me with a large deal to sell something (I have to be really vague here) to China.  The item had me worried about U.S. export control laws so I asked the company whether they had analyzed whether their product might violate any export control laws.  The company pooh-poohed my concerns and so I called a lawyer friend of mine whose practice focuses in large part on export control laws to see whether I was out of bounds for being so worried. This lawyer confirmed my concerns at this company diffidence.  The company persisted in refusing to research and analyze this issue and so we turned down the legal work.  I have no idea whether that company went forward with the deal or not.

Countless other times, clients have the research done, but only after we bring to their attention the need to do so. This is one of those areas of law where you are better off conducting the research, saving it, and being able to produce it to your government if it raises any concerns.  Assuming your research showed the export was legal, the mere act of your having tried to comply should assist in proving that your violation was unintentional.

Anyway, be mindful that the United States (and many other countries) do not give carte blanche to selling anything and everything to China.  On the flip side, China does not accept everything either.

Just thought you should know….

Photo of Dan Harris Dan Harris

Dan is a founder of Harris Bricken, an international law firm with lawyers in Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, China and Spain.

He primarily represents companies doing business in emerging market countries, having spent years building and maintaining a global, professional network.  His work has been as varied as securing the release of two improperly held helicopters in Papua New Guinea, setting up a legal framework to move slag from Canada to Poland’s interior, overseeing hundreds of litigation and arbitration matters in Korea, helping someone avoid terrorism charges in Japan, and seizing fish product in China to collect on a debt.

He was named as one of only three Washington State Amazing Lawyers in International Law, is AV rated by Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory (its highest rating), is rated 10.0 by (also its highest rating), and is a recognized SuperLawyer.

Dan is a frequent writer and public speaker on doing business in Asia and constantly travels between the United States and Asia. He most commonly speaks on China law issues and is the lead writer of the award winning China Law Blog. Forbes Magazine, Fortune Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Investors Business Daily, Business Week, The National Law Journal, The Washington Post, The ABA Journal, The Economist, Newsweek, NPR, The New York Times and Inside Counsel have all interviewed Dan regarding various aspects of his international law practice.

Dan is licensed in Washington, Illinois, and Alaska.

In tandem with the international law team at his firm, Dan focuses on setting up/registering companies overseas (via WFOEs, Rep Offices or Joint Ventures), drafting international contracts (NDAs, OEM Agreements, licensing, distribution, etc.), protecting IP (trademarks, trade secrets, copyrights and patents), and overseeing M&A transactions.