Burma Bill Becomes Law

President Bush signed legislation Tuesday designed to punish Myanmar’s brutal ruling regime by banning the importation of rubies and jade from that country into the U.S.

The “Tom Lantos Block Burmese JADE Act of 2008” bans Burmese gem imports, something that already is the voluntary policy of retailers such as Tiffany’s and Bulgari. U.S. officials say Myanmar has been evading earlier gem-targeting sanctions by laundering the stones in other countries before they are shipped to the United States. Congress approved the bill July 22.

“The bill requires that within 60 days, jadeite or rubies of Burma origin cannot be imported into the U.S,” the Jewelers Vigilance Committee said in a statement. “This importation ban would encompass all Burmese origin jadeite and rubies, notwithstanding “substantial transformation” in Thailand or elsewhere.  

The importation ban does not apply to Burmese jadeite or rubies that are imported for personal use, JVC said. The law does not apply to exports of Burmese rubies or jadeite from the U.S. Further, the bill does not prevent U.S. sales of Burmese jadeite or rubies already in the U.S.  

“Non-Burmese rough and polished jadeite and rubies (or jewelry containing jadeite and rubies) may be imported from other countries under certain conditions. These imports require the president to ‘determine and certify’ to the appropriate legislative committees and government agencies that those countries have implemented verifiable controls from mine to first exportation that demonstrate that the jadeite and ruby does not originate in Burma,” JVC said. “These non-Burmese imports must be accompanied by officially-validated documentation certifying the country from which the jadeite and rubies were mined or extracted, total carat weight, and value of the jadeite or rubies. All entities mining, exporting or importing non-Burmese jadeite and rubies are required to maintain verifiable records demonstrating compliance with these requirements.” 

The importation ban does not apply to any Burmese rubies or jadeite that were in the U.S. before the ban and then exported from the U.S. when they are re-imported into the U.S. by the same person, as long as the jadeite or rubies have not been improved in condition or value while outside the U.S., JVC said Customs is still determining whether or not this exemption would apply to cut and polished rubies that are exported from the U.S., placed into jewelry and then re-imported.

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