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Interpretation ID: 2632o

Ellen A. Lockwood, Esq.
Assistant U.S. Attorney
United States Attorney
District of Guam Suite 502-A PNB
238 O'Hara Street
Agana, Guam 969l0

Dear Ms. Lockwood:

This is in reply to your letter of September 24, l987, to Jim Marquez, the former General Counsel of this Department. You have asked about the applicability to the Commmonwealth of the Northern Marianas (CNMI) of l5 U.S.C. l38l, and l9 C.F.R. l2.80.

The National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, l5 U.S.C. l38l et seq., as you have noted, applies to the CNMI through Section 502(a)(2) of the "Covenant to Establish the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in Political Union with the United States," and is a "State" within the meaning of l5 U.S.C. l39l. This means that it is a violation of l5 U.S.C. l397(a)(1)(A) to import into the CNMI any motor vehicle that does not comply with all applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standards.

As authorized by l5 U.S.C. l397(b)(3), the Departments of Transportation and Treasury issued joint regulations to enforce the importation prohibition of l397(a)(l)(A). As the authority of the Customs Service is limited to the Customs Territory of the United States, these regulations apply only to "States" within this Territory. They do not apply to Guam, American Samoa, the Virgin Islands, and the CNMI, "States" that lie without the Customs Territory of the United States. It is our understanding that each of these "States" enforces l397(a)(1)(A) within its borders through an Executive Order issued by the Governor, designating an appropriate local agency for this task. In the Virgin Islands, for example, the Department of Public Safety will not register any vehicle that lacks the label required by 49 C.F.R. Part 567 Certification certifying compliance with all applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standards. I enclose representative copies of correspondence that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has had with the Virgin Islands and the CNMI on this subject.


Erika Z. Jones Chief Counsel

Enclosures ref:MIS#VSA d:l2/30/87