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April 8, 2020, by CSUSTL Staff.

On March 20, 2020, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (“CBP”) issued a communication to the trade, through Cargo Systems Messaging Service (“CSMS”) message #42097586, explaining that “due to the severity of Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19), [CBP] will approve on a case by case basis additional days for payment of estimated duties, taxes, and fees due to this emergency.” The agency’s message further indicated that CBP was “working on a future message that will provide further information.” The Committee to Support U.S. Trade Laws (CSUSTL) strongly opposes proposals that would result in the deferral of the payment of estimated duties, taxes, and fees to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

As with all Americans, CSUSTL’s members are confronting incredibly challenging circumstances as the result of necessary and appropriate public health measures taken to limit the spread of COVID-19. Many of our members’ factories have been ordered to shutter operations for an extended period of time. Those manufacturing facilities that remain open face an uncertain and volatile market where demand in some segments has all but collapsed.

In this environment, news that CBP is considering requests by importers for delays in the payment of estimated trade remedy duties, including antidumping and countervailing duties, is deeply disturbing. Each of the American industries that has petitioned for and obtained an antidumping and/or countervailing duty order has recently demonstrated that they are either materially injured by reason of unfairly traded imports or that they will suffer material injury by reason of unfairly traded imports should trade relief be removed. Under current circumstances, all affected industries have now been made even more vulnerable to the adverse impacts of dumped and subsidized imports. CBP should not – and must not – exercise discretionary authority to facilitate the entry of unfairly traded imports into the U.S. market.

In a letter to the Acting Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Mark A. Morgan, sent on March 23rd, CSUSTL explained that a broad deferral program allowing importers to avoid payment of trade remedies – including antidumping, countervailing, Section 232, and Section 301 duties – would have a devastating impact on trade-impacted industries and their employees throughout the country. Many U.S. manufacturers, farmers, commercial fishermen, and other producers have currently shuttered their businesses or are operating at significantly reduced capacity. Incentivizing the entry of imports into the U.S. market under these circumstances substantially increases the challenges faced by trade-affected domestic industries and threatens the livelihoods of millions of working women and men across the country.

Moreover, CSUSTL strenuously objects to any request made by U.S. importers of unfairly-traded goods to avoid paying funds into the public treasury during an unprecedented national emergency. Setting to one side the harm caused by such imports on U.S. producers, as the federal government considers broad-based relief programs to support working men and women across the country, it is grossly inappropriate for importers to request that CBP afford them significant additional days for the payment of estimated trade remedy duties that could otherwise contribute to the resources available to address this crisis. Such requests would be even more troubling when presented by nonresident importers of record.

Any duty deferral program that included extensions on the payment of trade remedies would lead to massive non-payment of these duties. As U.S. Customs and Border Protection has found, inadequate security for the payment of antidumping and countervailing duties at the time of import entry has led to billions of dollars in unpaid bills to the U.S. Treasury. A deferral of a requirement to pay cash deposits at import entry would act as an invitation to foreign entities to act as importers of record for goods brought into the United States. Once the deferral period ended, U.S. Customs and Border Protection would have no meaningful way to collect duties owed.

For these reasons, CSUSTL calls upon President Trump to reject proposals for the deferral of payment of estimated duties, taxes, and fees.

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