Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL-3) today introduced legislation that will help American manufacturers grow their businesses and add jobs by cracking down on foreign companies that illegally avoid paying millions of dollars in customs duties. The Customs Training Enhancement Act will facilitate the sharing of information between the private sector and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, enabling the government to do a better job of identifying schemes that cheat American taxpayers by importing foreign goods without paying duties.
The bill, which was folded into Democratic and Republican versions of more comprehensive Customs legislation in the previous Congress, further advances Rep. Lipinski's goal of leveling the playing field so American businesses have a fairer shot against their foreign competitors.
"Blatant cheating by foreign firms has become more widespread at a time when American employers and workers are already at a serious disadvantage. This is not only bad for American business, but it hurts taxpayers by robbing the federal government of taxes it is rightfully owed," Rep. Lipinski said. "The Customs Training Enhancement Act offers a commonsense approach by allowing impacted industries to provide our Customs agents the critical intelligence they need to spot the cheaters."
Since 2001, importers and exporters of goods into the United States have avoided paying $600 million in duties, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, which 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.
Under Rep. Lipinski's bill, Customs and Border Protection would be required to seek out companies and trade groups that have information that can identify misrepresented shipments. That information, in turn, would be shared directly from these industry experts to Customs agents working on the front lines.
The Customs Training Enhancement Act is modeled on a successful program forged between the steel industry and Customs and Border Protection in which company and industry officials have taught Customs agents how to spot products that have been deliberately mislabeled.
"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. The Customs Training Enhancement Act is an important first step."