August 2009

International Trade May Return as a Priority at U.S. Customs

Ever since the tragic events of 9/11, the sole focus of U.S. Customs and Border Protection has been anti-terrorism.   This is true, despite the rhetoric in more recent years that U.S. Customs serves the equally vital goals of anti-terrorism and facilitating the flow of legitimate trade and travel.  The former priorities of collecting customs duties and fees, facilitating international trade, preventing illegal trade practices, and interdicting drugs and other contraband was shoved to the side in the name of protecting our homeland from terrorists.

Fortunately, the United States Congress, through the Senate Finance Committee led by Sen. Max Baucus (D-Montana), on August 6, 2009, introduced a bill entitled “The Customs Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Reauthorization Act of 2009.” Senator Baucus said that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have not been focusing sufficient resources on their trade missions, “and this bill would direct them to do so.”

If the bill becomes law, and it should, because of both Democratic and Republic support,  it would refocus U.S. Customs on regulating international trade, a mission U.S. Customs has performed very well for over 200 years.   In summary, among other things, the law would:

1) Replace the Office of  Trade Relations with a new Trade Advocate, who would be the primary liaison between the public and U.S. Customs;

2) Create a Principal Deputy Commissioner, appointed by the President of the United States;

3) Consolidate the current Office of International Trade and the Office of International Affairs into a single Office of International Trade;

4) Make health and safety issues a top priority;

5) […]

Mexico Fires its Customs Officials

Did you hear that Mexico replaced all 700 Customs Inspectors?  It did so because the Mexican Customs officers were considered corrupt, allowing undeclared merchandise (including drugs and weapons) to cross into and out of Mexico.  The replacement officers are allegedly specially trained to collect the tax revenues that the Mexican Government depends upon, and prevent undeclared merchandise from entering the country (i.e. smuggling).  Mexico depends upon collection of revenues by the Mexican Customs authorities much more than we do in the United States with the customs duties and fees collected by our U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers.  Most importantly, the new Mexican Customs officials are supposed to be specially selected and trained so they will not be susceptible to the same enticements that corrupted the former 700 Mexican Customs officials.  Mexican Government officials say not to worry about  the new Mexican Customs officials as over 70% of the new Mexican Customs officials are colleged educated, as opposed to just 10% for those who were fired.

Do you believe any of this nonsense?  This is not the first time that the Mexican Government has fired huge numbers of its Customs officials.  It happened before and it will likely happen again.  Mexican Customs officials need better salaries and better working conditions, not college degrees.

In contrast, if an international passenger or importer or exporter attempted to bribe a U.S. Customs officer, the chances are excellent that the U.S. Customs officer would promptly arrest or take other similar serious and immediate action.  That is not to say there […]

Export Manager Fined $15k for False Statements to BIS

diaz_j3 (1)Lesson of the day –  Don’t make an intentionally false or misleading statement to the U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS)! Carol Wilkins apparently did, and will now pay $15,000 to the BIS. Important to note is that this export manager was fined individually. RF Micro Devices, Inc., the company Carol worked for, was fined $190,000 separate and apart from Carol.

From at least 2002-2003, a responsibility of Carol’s was export control compliance for RF Micro Devices, Inc. The company had exported spread-spectrum modems which are properly classified as ECCN 5A001 to China.  Yet, the company did not obtain the required license from the BIS.

The BIS Charging Letter discussed Ms. Wilkins’ false or misleading statement to the BIS. During the course of a BIS investigation, she allegedly told a BIS Special Agent that all product classifications were confirmed by an outside consultant to be EAR99 (no export license required). Apparently the consultant disagreed, and even kept the documentation in which the consultant had specifically advised Carol that the items were not EAR99.  Carol might not have realized how resourceful the BIS Agents could be as she may not have realized that BIS Agents would confirm her statements to them by doublechecking with the consultant. Even I was always taught “trust but verify”.  BIS is no different in this case.

Whenever you are going to be interviewed by a Special Agent of BIS or any other Federal law enforcement agency, always remember two things: (1) tell the truth, and (2) seek the advice of […]

A Victory for All Customs Brokers

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit just issued an important decision that will help all customs brokers who are facing a broker penalty action pursuant to 19 U.S.C. 1641 and 19 CFR Part 111.  The Court held that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) must consider all ten factors specifically identified at 19 CFR 111.1 when determining whether or not to mitigate a penalty issued by CBP against a customs broker for failing to excercise “responsible supervision and control.”  CBP had argued to the Court that it only needed to consider those factors it thought were relevant.  The Court disagreed with CBP, and reversed the decision of the U.S. Court of International Trade. The Court stated:

“Because Customs did not consider all ten factors listed in 19 CFR 111.1, its determination that UPS violated 19 U.S.C. 1641 was improper. Accordingly, we vacate that portion of he Court of International Trade’s judgment and remand for further proceedings.”

So, even though the Court determined that UPS was wrong in its tariff classification of imported merchandise, and even though UPS paid CBP $15,000 in penalties for failing to exercise responsible supervision and control, it remains to be seen whether CBP will assess another $75,000 in penalties against UPS.   My guess is that CBP will pursue the remaining penalties against UPS which were also for alleged misclassification of the same merchandise on different entries.  The Court required CBP to at least consider all ten factors, but also explicitly stated that CBP has the discretion to weigh each of […]

By |2015-11-30T19:30:43-05:00August 18, 2009|Customs Broker|0 Comments

Knowing The Rules Of The Road: Exporting Cars From The U.S.

Exporting motor vehicles from the United States to foreign destinations is a common occurrence at many ports around the country, including South Florida’s ports. Whether exporting vehicles for business or personal use, it is important to know the procedures that U.S. Customs (“CBP”) expects you to follow. Not paying attention to the “rules of the road” can result in the seizure of your vehicle(s), and the imposition of hefty penalties.

If you are in the business of exporting cars, or plan to export a car to a foreign country for personal use, it is important to know two different sets of rules. Part 192 of Title 19 of the Code of Federal Regulations (“CFR”) contains the rules for exporting used vehicles. Used vehicles include any vehicle where legal title has been transferred by a manufacturer, distributor, or dealer to the person buying the car. These regulations explain the basic requirements for how to export cars, including the documentation that must be presented to CBP, such as a Power of Attorney, where a company or individual is shipping a motor vehicle on behalf of someone else. The regulations also describe how much it will cost in penalties if a person fails to submit the right documentation, or no documentation at all. The penalties can be severe – up to $10,000 where CBP determines the car was stolen, or the vehicle identification number (“VIN”) has been tampered with.

The second set of rules that you need to know are the port-specific requirements imposed by […]

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