March 21, 2011

Wyden Calls for Action Against Foreign Companies Violating Trade Laws

Instead of playing by the rules, some overseas importers are engaging in fraudulent schemes to avoid paying duties.

Portland, OR Using clear evidence that foreign companies are brazenly ignoring U.S. trade laws, Senator Ron Wyden today called for stronger federal enforcement of duties on imported goods to save American jobs and American manufacturers.

“We have laws intended to enforce fair trade, but they are no good if they aren’t enforced,” Wyden said. “Customs and Border Protection, which is the agency responsible for collecting the duties at the border, treats these allegations of duty evasion as if they were junk mail or SPAM to be quickly deleted.”

Wyden, chairman of the Senate Finance Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs, and Global Competitiveness, said the schemes used by foreign companies to avoid duties include falsifying documents, laundering merchandise through ports in different countries or stamping goods as being from another nation.

The tactics of foreign companies were revealed in a series of emails obtained in an informal “sting” operation by Trade Subcommittee staff posing as buyers. The emails from the China-based companies brazenly explain in detail that steps they take to avoid paying duties and tariffs on goods shipped to the U.S.  Although Wyden’s trade staff only targeted firms in China, foreign suppliers in many other countries – ranging from Vietnam to Malaysia to India – are believed to be involved in schemes to avoid paying special duties that are imposed to protect American manufacturers. 

“It’s brazen because they aren’t worried about what the U.S. or any other government is going to do about it,” Wyden said. “They are AWOL on this issue.  And as the chair of the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Trade and Customs, I don’t say that lightly. I’ve filled my quota of frustration.  When these specific tariffs are being avoided, U.S. producers are being harmed.”

Wyden and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) have co-sponsored legislation to force law enforcement at U.S. ports of entry to do their job. It would hold Customs accountable to quickly investigate allegations of duty evasion and to quickly impose the correct amount of duties.  It would also provide new investigative powers to take faster action before entire domestic industries are wiped out. Wyden’s Trade Subcommittee will hold hearings on the issue in the near future.