Originally published by the Journal of Commerce in December 2012

What happens in the regulatory arena over the next year depends in great measure on how disciplined Congress becomes. For example, where will budget cuts hit the various regulatory agencies?  Will new laws be enacted which require agencies to take on significant new responsibilities but provide no additional funding, staffing or equipment? Will we see a miscellaneous tariff bill, new free trade agreements or trade promotion agreements? Will the Trans-Pacific Partnership or the EU-US free trade agreement be realized?

On the agency side, will Customs finally get a permanent Commissioner? David Aguilar has done an excellent job, but the position is a political one and being a political appointee brings with it certain access and credentials that are markedly different than those of a career officer, no matter how good he or she may be.

With FDA, the question is the timing of the Food Safety Modernization Act implementation. Many deliverables are seriously behind schedule. The trade remains concerned about what the Voluntary Qualified Importer Program will look like and its cost.

Another area of keen interest is how export reform finally plays out. Will Congress get to the point where the needed legislative changes are enacted, or are we left to see only the changes which result from executive orders?

These questions point to one overarching theme for 2013 – the potential exists for lots of change on many fronts, but another and equally important overarching theme for 2013 is more enforcement by more agencies resulting in higher fines and the expanded use of criminal prosecutions. The recently published Foreign Corrupt Practice Act guidelines did nothing to undermine the trade community’s long-held conclusion that internal controls and strong, effective compliance programs are critical to a company’s survival regardless of its size or area of inquiry.