Steel wire producers visited members of Congress last week as
part of a concerted effort to push a law that would reform U.S.
Customs and Border Protection and enforce U.S. trade laws.
legislation, supported by members of the American Wire
Producers Association (AWPA), would establish accountability at
Customs for responding to allegations that imported products
are illegally evading anti-dumping and countervailing duties,
and set a timeline for action on allegations.
Members of the AWPA
reached out Sept. 19 to about 30 members of the U.S. House of
Representatives and the U.S. Senate on Capitol Hill.
"Our primary aim on
the Hill was to address this Enforce Act and asking for
legislation that would encourage Customs and border protection
to do their job to cover circumvention," AWPA president and
McBee, S.C.-based Mar-Mac Wire Inc. chief executive officer
John Martin III told AMM.
The trade legislation
has been introduced in the Senate as part of the Trade
Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Reauthorization Act of 2013,
a Customs reauthorization bill; and as the Enforcing Orders and
Reducing Customs Evasion (Enforce) Act in the House Ways and
Means Committee, which has 44 co-sponsors.
Customs received more
than 100 allegations in 2012 from U.S. companies that imports
are illegally entering the country without paying anti-dumping
or countervailing duties, yet has successfully pursued only one
allegation filed by a wire producer, Amy DeArmond, government
policy and legal affairs strategist for Leggett & Platt
Inc., Carthage, Mo., told AMM.
Customs and Border
Protection in July established the Center of Excellence and
Expertise (CEE) in Chicago, which was created to better track
imports and respond to allegations by domestic companies.
CEE will streamline
the filing process for goods entering the United States and
increase dialogue between manufacturers who suspect goods are
illegally evading anti-dumping or countervailing duties,
according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection deputy
assistant director Africa Bell.
"We have been under a
large effort to reorganize, restructure and repurpose a lot of
the trade efforts. I know were making a very concerted
effort to do that sort of outreach and say come and talk to us
and make sure we have a dialogue here in Washington," Michael
Walsh, director of Customs Office of International Trade,
said at the AWPAs Government Affairs Conference.
But AWPA members and
advisors said Customs hasnt been doing its job, that too
many steel product imports enter the country illegally and that
the agency hasnt adequately responded to complaints over
the past five years.
"There is no other job
in this country where you cannot do anything for five years and
still be employed," DeArmond said.
"I hate to be overly
critical because I dont (know) whats on their
responsibility chart, but I would say weve been
disappointed with their responses to allegations. Were
looking for something that establishes accountability and a
timeline for responding to our complaints," Timothy Selhorst,
president and chief executive officer of Bedford Heights,
Ohio-based American Spring Wire Inc., said.
Martin met South
Carolina Republican Reps. Mick Mulvaney and Tom Rice and said
that both were receptive to his comments.
Selhorst and DeArmond
said they made a strong case for requiring accountability at
Customs in their meeting with Rep. Charles Boustany (R., La.),
who had previously introduced legislation in the House Ways and
Means Committee that favored less robust measures to combat
"Its not like
the AWPA is a group of protectionist, closed-border folks. But
I think there need to be some checks and balances on the
damaging trade that takes place from foreign countries,
including China," Selhorst told AMM.
Martin said he has
contemplated filing a trade case on tie wire and bar ties, but
has been deterred because many trade laws arent enforced
even if duties are successfully imposed.
producers said they hope to have legislation passed before