CBP Officers and Agriculture Specialists Ensure Valentine’s Day Bouquets are Free from Pests and Disease.

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With Valentine’s Day around the corner, it is important to remember that certain flowers, flower arrangements and potted plants are prohibited from entering the US.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers and their agriculture specialists are busy at US ports making sure flowers from travelers are free from pests, diseases and insects that may cause harm to US agricultural and floral industries.

Travelers from Mexico commonly carry two prohibited items found in flower arrangements – chrysanthemums and orange jasmine. CBP is trying to prevent “chrysanthemum white rest”, pests, and other diseases from entering through bouquet arrangements.

With the current restrictions, CBP is trying to prevent funguses, such as “Chrysanthemum White Rust” from entering the U.S. Additionally, some cut greenery, which are the plants used to fill a bouquet, may have pests or diseases. For example, Murraya (common name “orange jasmine”) is a host for Asian citrus psyllid, a dangerous pest of citrus. If any portion of a bouquet has pests, the entire bouquet will be confiscated.

Customs advises travelers to declare all bouquets, flowers, and plants in order to avoid possible penalties. If you are currently facing CBP penalties after an agriculture specialist inspected your flowers or plants, contact David Hsu immediately at 832-896-6288 or by email at dhsu@givensjohnston.com.

Bassett Mirror Company to pay $10.5 million for allegations of evading customs duties.

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According to a January 16, 2018 Department of Justice press release – Virginia based home furniture company, Bassett Mirror Company (Bassett) will pay $10.5 million to resolve allegations that Bassett violated the False Claims Act (FCA) by “knowingly making false statements on customs declarations to avoid paying antidumping duties on wooden bedroom furniture imported from the People’s Republic of China (PRC)”.

Wooden bedroom furniture from the People’s Republic Of China is covered under case number: A-570-890 and the scope includes:


The product covered by the order is wooden bedroom furniture. Wooden bedroom furniture is generally, but not exclusively, designed, manufactured, and offered for sale in coordinated groups, or bedrooms, in which all of the individual pieces are of approximately the same style and approximately the same material and/or finish. The subject merchandise is made substantially of wood products, including both solid wood and also engineered wood products made from wood particles, fibers, or other wooden materials such as plywood, oriented strand board, particle board, and fiberboard, with or without wood veneers, wood overlays, or laminates, with or without non-wood components or trim such as metal, marble, leather, glass, plastic, or other resins, and whether or not assembled, completed, or finished.

Since 2004, imports of wooden beddroom furniture from China have been subject to dumping duties and the current PRC rate is 216 percent.

The US Department of Justice alleged that for a five year period (2009 to 2014), Bassett evaded payment of antidumping duties owed by misclassifying the furniture as non-bedroom furniture on import documents. By classifying imports as “non-bedroom furniture”, Bassett avoiding paying the duty rate of 216%.

In general, antidumping duties are imposed against foreign companies for “dumping” products into the US market at prices below cost. Most of the foreign companies are located in “non market economy” countries such as People’s Republic of China and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. By imposing anti dumping duties on goods, the US Department of Commerce is attempting to protect US businesses and “level the playing field” for domestically manufactured products.

Given the current administration in the White House, we can expect the Department of Justice, CBP, and Commerce to further strengthen their enforcement of antidumping duties for any and all goods entering the US.

If you are not sure whether your imports from China are considered “wooden bedroom furniture, or if you have been alleged to violate the false claims act by misclassifying imports, avoiding payment of duties or any other import and export related claim from the US government, contact David Hsu at 832.896.6288 or by email at dhsu@givensjohnston.com immediately. There is no cost for the initial consultation and in most instances, time limits to take action are running – don’t miss your chance, contact us today.

Baltimore CBP and the CPSC Seize Children’s “Activity Cubes” due to Potential Choking Hazard.

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Above photo is a screengrab from the Customs website showing the seized children’s mini activity cubes.

As the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) functions as the USA’s border security agency – CBP enforces hundreds of laws from different agencies. For example, CBP may seize imported automotive parts that violate Department of Transportation regulations or CBP may seize counterfeit and tainted foods products that violate Food and Drug Administration rules.

On January 15th, CBP officers in Baltimore examined a shipment of toys valued at $5,600 from Hong Kong and submitted samples of the toys to the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC). CBP officers initially sent this sample to the CPSC because the toys appeared to contain potential choking hazards.

CPSC subsequently tested the activity cubes and determined the toys violated the small parts requirement of the Federal Hazardous Substances Act [15 USC §1263]. A copy of the FHSA can be found at this link: https://www.cpsc.gov/s3fs-public/fhsa.pdf

Unfortunately for this importer, they won’t be able to get their goods and may face further penalties from Customs. If you have had your imports seized by Customs due to DOT, CPSC, FDA or any of the other alphabet soup of government agency regulations, please call David Hsu at 832.896.6288, or by email at dhsu@givensjohnston.com, free consultations.

As of 2/24/2018 – ACE will be the only authorized electronic data interchange system for processing drawback filings.

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According to a notice posted on the Federal Register, starting February 24, 2018, the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) will be the sole electronic data interchange (EDI) system authorized by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for processing electronic drawback filings under NAFTA and non-TFTEA drawback.

After February 24, 2018, Automated Commercial System (ACS) will no longer be a CBP-authorized EDI for drawback filings.

The full notice can be found here:

https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/01/18/2018-00803/automated-commercial-environment-ace-becoming-the-sole-cbp-authorized-electronic-data-interchange

If you have any questions regarding drawback or this Federal Register notice, please do not hesitate to contact David Hsu at 832.896.6288 or dhsu@givensjohnston.com.

Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) issues their 2017 Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets.

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On January 11, 2018, the USTR released their report on “notorious markets”. As the name suggests, the USTR issues annual reviews of cities, places or shopping areas (both physical and online) that are believed to be involved in large commercial-scale copyright piracy and trademark counterfeiting. In addition to financial losses, the USTR says copyright piracy and counterfeit goods undermine advantages to innovation, creativity of US workers while also posing risks to consumer health and safety.

The notorious market list (NML) maintained by the USTR highlights physical and online marketplaces that “reportedly engage in, facilitate, turn a blind eye to, or benefit from substantial piracy and counterfeiting”. The list includes 18 physical markets and over 20 online marketplaces. The USTR does note that the NML list does not make findings of legal violations nor reflects the US analysis of the IP protection and enforcement climate in the countries in which the listed markets are found.

The report focus this year is on “illicit streaming devices” that includes streaming, on-demand, and over-the-top media service providers or other piracy applications that allow users to stream content, download or otherwise access information. Such streaming devices include Amazon fire TV sticks that are “jailbroken” or have the “Kodi” application installed. Other lesser known manufacturers also sell and market such stream devices using keywords such as: mini tv, tv box, stream, kodi, internet media player, tv browser, android tv, or variations thereof. The USTR estimates pirated content viewed on these streaming devices cost up to $840 million in lost revenue in the US and over $4-5 billion a year to the entertainment industry.

The USTR report spends the remaining 35 pages of the report highlighting various websites and physical brick-and-morter markets worldwide that may contribute to the sale and distribution of counterfeit and intellectual property infringing products.

If you have had your imported goods seized by Customs due to suspected intellectual property and trademark violations, call David Hsu at 832.896.6288 or email dhsu@givensjohnston.com. Certain time limitations do apply and you need legal representation.

APHIS Recognizes Mexico as Free of Classical Swine Fever.

pig-alp-rona-furna-sow-63285.jpegClassical swine fever (CSF or sometimes referred to as hog cholera/swine fever/European swine fever) is a highly contagious viral disease of pigs. CSF used to be widespread but many countries had eradicated the disease until it was reintroduced in 1997-199 (CSF was eradicated in the US in the 1970’s). A 1997 outbreak of CSF in the Netherlands involved more than 400 herds and cost $2.3 billion dollars to eradicate with some 12 million pigs killed.

While eradicated in North America, the US is also not immune to the risk as CSF is still endemic in South and Central America. Because of this, the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) previously classified imports of live swine, swine genetics, pork and pork products from Mexico as risky following a 2015 site review.

However, at the request of Mexico’s government, the USDA APHIS has now determined that the risk of CSF through Mexican imports of live swine, swine genetics, pork and pork products is very low. As such, these items can now be saefly imported into the US as long as the imports follow APHIS’ import regulations.

Importations of live swine, swine genetics, pork and pork products must (1) be accompanied by a certificate issued by a Mexican government veterinary officer, (2) must come from swine raised and slaughtered in regions APHIS considers CSF free.

If your company would like more information regarding importation of swine and swine products or other general USDA APHIS concerns, please do not hesitate to contact David Hsu at 832.896.6288 or by email at dhsu@givensjohnston.com.

 

Flying back to the US after the holidays? Be wary of these items that are prohibited from entering the U.S.

pexels-photo-123013.jpegTraveling overseas is a great opportunity to take a break from work, visit family, or just visit and explore what the world has to offer.

After a nice trip abroad, it is easy to forget about the many prohibited items U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) does not allow to enter the US. Here’s a summary of some prohibited items from CBP’s most recent revisions as of December 8, 2017:

Please note, that all passengers carrying fruit, vegetables, meat and/or poultry products still must declare these products to CBP for inspection – regardless whether or not it is allowed into the US.

Prohibited:
1. Muraya or “orange jasmine” is used in the construction of alters. Orange jasmine greenery may carry the Asian Citrus Psyllid, an insect that carries citrus greening disease.
2. Oranges, Grapefruit, Tangerines, Sour Oranges, Sweet Limes, Guavas, Mangoes, Peaches, Pomegranates from Mexico are prohibited.
3. Most fruits from outside the US.
4. Cut flowers with berries.
5. Kinder eggs, they pose a choking hazard and are illegal for consumption in the US.
6. Moon cakes containing egg, beef, poultry or pork NOT from Canada. If CBP officer can not confirm the filling of a non-Canadian mooncake, it may be denied entry.

Allowed:
1. Fruit from Canada with proof of origin.
2. Cut flowers (does not include dried, bleached, dyed, or treated plants, filler, greenery, fern fronds.
3. Ethrogs, also known as Citrus medica is allowed after inspection. Travelers will need to open the container and unwrap it. In the event insect stings or pests are found, the ehtrog will be prohibited from entering the US.
4. Twigs of myrtle and palm fronds require inspection.
5. Gift baskets may be allowed after inspection by FDA, CBP and USPS (if mailed)
6. Baked goods (bread, cereal, crackers, cakes).
7. Moon cakes with verified Canadian origin.

Safe travels everyone! If you or anyone you know has had property or currency seized by CBP, give us a call for a free consultation at 832.896.6288 or dhsu@givensjohnston.com

Why do some overseas suppliers request my social security number, EIN, importer or IRS number?

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If you import goods into the US, you may have received an e-mail from a supplier asking for you to provide your SSN, EIN, importer or IRS number.

Before I answer the question, let’s go back to the beginning of the import process. Any goods entering the US from overseas will be considered an importation. All importations must be “cleared” by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

As the importer in the US, CBP considers you (whether individually, or your company) as the ultimate importer. You as the ultimate importer can clear the goods or have a Customs Broker (Broker) clear them for you.

Formal entry of goods requires the Broker to write down your identification number on CBP Form 7501 (Entry Summary). This identification number is either your EIN/tax identification number or a number assigned by the IRS or your social security number.

On the other hand, goods can also be cleared informally (usually less than $2,500 in value) and not in “commercial quantities”.

As most foreign suppliers are now aware that CBP requires an ID number, they will often ask for you (the purchaser’s) SSN to include on the export documents.

If you have any import questions, feel free to give us a call, 832.896.6288 or email us at dhsu@givensjohnston.com. Looking forward to hearing from you.

Importers of “durable infant or toddler products” now includes children’s folding chairs and stools.

pexels-photo-374756.jpegIn early December, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) approved the final rules for Safety Standard for Children’s Folding Chairs and Stools. The final amended rule to 16 CFR Part 1130 includes children’s folding chairs and stools.

As indicated in the Federal Register, the “Commission considers folding stools to be a subset of folding chairs. The configuration of children’s folding chairs and folding stools are similar”. As the designs are similar, the Commission found the potential hazards in the folding mechanism are also similar.

The final rule amends section 1130.2(a)(13) to make clear that children’s folding chairs and children’s folding stools are now considered durable infant or toddler products.

The CPSC gives suppliers 6 months to come into compliance with the new standard and the final rule will apply to products manufactured or imported on or after June 15, 2018.

Producers and importers of infant and toddler products must follow safety standards to minimize the risk to children using the products. Additionally, the nation’s border security agency, CBP, enforces over 400 laws regulated by about 40 different agencies (such as the CPSC) at 328 air, land and sea ports of entry.

If you or your company receives any notices from CBP or the CPSC and you would like a free consultation, please do not hesitate to contact David Hsu at 713.932.1540 or by email at dhsu@givensjohnston.com

Merchandise Processing Fee Increases Starting January 1, 2018.

pexels-photo.jpgU.S. Customs and Border Protection is adjusting certain customs user fees and will increase the Merchandise Processing Fee (MPF) to reflect inflation. Effective the first of the new year, the minimum fee has increased to $25.67 and the maximum fee has also increased to $497.99.