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Bill would help agents spot ‘cheating’: Lipinski

Keywords: Tags  Customs Training Enhancement Act, circumvention, China, Dan Lipinski, steel industry partnership, transshipment, circumvention, U.S. Customs and Border Protection

CHICAGO — Rep. Dan Lipinski (D., Ill.) introduced legislation intended to crack down on foreign companies that withhold millions of dollars in customs duties.

The Customs Training Enhancement Act will facilitate information-sharing between U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the private sector, enabling the government to do a better job of identifying schemes to import foreign goods without paying duties.

“Blatant cheating by foreign firms has become more widespread,” Lipinski said, referring to the practice known as circumvention. He added that his bill would provide customs agents with “the critical intelligence they need to spot the cheaters.”

Importers and exporters of goods into the United States have avoided paying $600 million in duties since 2001, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). The GAO estimates that 90 percent of all transshipped or mislabeled items originated in China.

Foreign companies have avoided duties by misclassifying and undervaluing products or by shipping goods from one country to another on their way to the United States in order to disguise the country of origin.

Lipinski’s bill would require Customs and Border Protection to seek out companies and trade groups that have information that could be used to identify misrepresented shipments. Those industry experts, in turn, would share the information directly with agents monitoring imports.

The proposal is modeled on an existing alliance between the U.S. steel industry and Customs and Border Protection, through which company and industry officials taught customs agents how to spot deliberately mislabeled products.

“The steel industry has shown us a public-private partnership that saves taxpayers millions of dollars while costing the federal government very few, if any, resources,” Lipinski said. “We need to expand this program and fight back against the lying and cheating by foreign companies that are hurting American taxpayers, businesses, and workers.”

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