New tax structures, import streamlining and tougher anticounterfeiting legislation were topics discussed by speakers at the American Watch Association Conclave, held May 23-24 in Washington, D.C.

More than 100 watch company executives and guests attended an evening dinner and a day of discussion with top U.S. lawmakers.

U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah was the keynote speaker at the AWA dinner. He explained proposals to phase out the U.S. Department of Commerce and to add officers to battle counterfeiters. U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney spoke about her efforts to enact tougher anticounterfeiting legislation.

Other speakers included Roderick DeArment, former deputy secretary of labor; Eugene Ludwig, comptroller of currency and former AWA Washington counsel; Jim Clark, a chief tax writer for the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee; John Atwood, chief of the intellectual property rights branch of the U.S. Customs Service; and Stuart Seidel, assistant commissioner for regulations and rulings at the Customs Service.

Several speakers spoke about possible changes in tax law, including the addition of value-added and other consumption taxes. And Customs Service representatives stressed their efforts in recent years to streamline the processing of imports and to catch people who violate customs laws.

Emilio Collado III, executive director of AWA, pronounced the event a success, with attendance up significantly from the last conclave two years ago. More than half of the 40 parent companies with AWA membership were represented.

Separately, AWA has formally replied to a Customs Service proposal to impose minimum size requirements for country-of-origin markings on watches. Instead of new size requirements, AWA urges the enforcement of existing “conspicuousness and legibility” marking requirements. AWA says small watches made for women and watches with subdials and “complications” would pose problems for any rigid country-of-origin requirements. He also says a one-size-fits-all requirement could mar the appearance of watches and jewelry, making them less salable. “We explained why the back of a watch is often needed for inscriptions as well as product information, serial numbers and required disclosures of metallic content,” he says.

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