U.S. Is Dumping Ground For Tainted China Honey

Senators Told Lax Enforcement of Trade Laws Costing U.S. Jobs and Revenue Members of a Senate Finance subcommittee were told yesterday that enforcement of American trade laws to prevent customs fraud and duty evasion is a huge problem that is costing the nation more lost jobs and millions of dollars that should be in the U.S. Treasury. Senators singled out top officials with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agencies for harsh criticism over the way they handle their responsibilities to administer America’s anti-dumping and countervailing duty laws. Sen. Ron Wyden, the Oregon Democrat who chairs the Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs and Global Competitiveness, said “duties aren’t going to work unless they are enforced and collected.” Wyden noted that his staff found “that it often takes CBP nearly a year to ask its sister agencies for investigatory help when it is needed and when CBP does refer a case to an outside agency they don’t follow-up to ensure that it gets handled.” And Wyden complained that “while agencies are dragging their feet to enforce our trade laws, this country’s domestic manufacturers are being hammered by foreign trade cheats.” The senators listened to a parade of witnesses describe a litany of economic horror stories from “honey laundering” where cheap and often contaminated honey from China is “trans-shipped” through other nations to hide its real country of origin to a flood of mattress innersprings dumped from China that has cost 2,500 jobs for a Carthage, MO manufacturer. The last domestic producer of indigo, which is used to dye and color blue jeans, went out of business while waiting for CBP to finish investigating a case of customs fraud. In describing the impact on firms in her state of Missouri, Sen. Claire McCaskill testified “we have put laws on the books that we are making no effort to enforce,” adding “I’m trying to figure out why we even have the ITC (International Trade Commission).” McCaskill said in doing her own research, she found that “CBP only responds to tips and never initiates action and that it takes nine months for the them to refer an allegation to its own field offices.” Committee member Jay Rockefeller was equally blunt. The West Virginia Democrat said “I’ve testified more than 50 times before the ITC and nothing ever happens. They just sit there.” Calling for Congress to craft a legislative solution, Rockfeller said “we have to get mean and nasty. If somebody does something wrong then you fire that person and that never happens in trade enforcement.” The senators also worried that the problem would make it harder to pass the three pending free trade agreements with Korea, Colombia and Panama that the Obama administration is about to send up to Capitol Hill. “People see that these trade agreements don’t work because we don’t enforce our trade laws,” said Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown who said that the steel, paper and tire sectors in his state have all been negatively impacted. Richard Adee, owner of Adee Honey Farms in Bruce, SD, testified that in his industry, 2,000 jobs in pollination have been lost as the number of domestic bee colonies has been cut in half from four million to two million in the last 25 years. Calling Chinese honey adulterated with antibiotics and heavy metals “the largest food fraud in U.S. history,” Adee explained that last year alone some 60 million pounds of this illicit honey came into the U.S. from China as trans-shipments from India, Taiwan, Indonesia and Malaysia. Adee said there are only 25 beekeepers in Malaysia that produce a total of 45,000 pounds. The problem is so bad that the European Union has banned all honey from China, Adee said. As a result, the ratio of domestic honey to imported honey has gone from 60 percent American and 40 percent imports a decade ago to 65 percent imports and only 35 percent domestic today. Noting that 80 percent of the anti-dumping actions of the last decade have been against China, Roger Schagrin, chairman of the Committee to Support U.S. Trade Laws’ Government Affairs Committee said “a whole new freight industry has sprung up in China whose focus is evasion of country of origin regulations.” Sen. Wyden got testy when the panel of witnesses from CBP and ICE took turns defending their agencies. Saying he was worried most about a “complete lack of urgency,” Wyden pointed out that CBP is now only collecting about one percent of the penalties due the federal treasury on duties evasion cases. When Wyden asked Allen Gina, CBP’s assistant commissioner of international trade if “you have done an analysis on sharing information with partner agencies?” a stone faced Gina replied “no.” Wyden also was irritated that while “CBP treats allegations of duty evasion like junk mail,” its sister agency “ICE has been more visible on the issue of alleged illegal movie downloads than taking steps to protect tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs that are threatened by unfair trade.” Wyden pledged that the Senate would draft legislation to address this problem and he promoted his bill the Enforcing Orders and Reducing Circumvention and Evasion (ENFORCE) Act, which he filed with Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) as a tool to expand the powers of the Commerce Department and require a uniform, rapid-response to allegations of evasion of U.S. trade statues by that agency and CBP. Click here to tell Congress to put American jobs first.