Landrieu Presses CBP, ICE to Strengthen Seafood, Maritime Tariff Enforcement

Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - 8:37pm

WASHINGTON (FOX44) – United States Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, today held a hearing to examine the inability of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to collect antidumping tariffs and enforce the Jones Act intended to protect jobs and businesses in Louisiana’s seafood and maritime industries.

During the hearing, Sen. Landrieu questioned officials from CBP, ICE and the Department of Commerce (DOC) about their enforcement efforts and how the subcommittee can better resource the agencies to enforce existing trade and maritime laws. Small business owners, including fourth-generation shrimper and New Orleanian Kristen Baumer, testified about the economic hardships their businesses face from foreign companies not paying current tariffs.

“I am concerned that CBP and ICE are simply not doing all they can to collect dumping duties that importers owe to the federal government,” Sen. Landrieu said during the hearing. “Continued failure to collect these duties is fiscally irresponsible, and it further threatens our vulnerable Gulf seafood and maritime industries. We don’t want to leave $1, or $2, or $3 billion on the table when it can be collected and contributed to our great effort to protect American jobs and close the budget gap.”

According to CBP’s own statistics, it has failed to collect more than $1.04 billion in antidumping duties since 2001. Illegal imported shrimp from China have accounted for more than $58 million in antidumping duties since 2005. Companies often avoid paying duties by evading law enforcement, using shell companies, shipping via other countries to the United States or misclassifying products.

Sen. Landrieu continued: “Our duty is to ensure that the agencies funded by the subcommittee are provided with the resources needed to enforce our existing trade laws. It is important for our businesses, trying to grow jobs in America—not lose them—and we are trying to close a substantial budget gap.”

Often thought of for its role in protecting the nation’s physical security, the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) CBP and ICE are also charged with protecting the United States’ economic security. After the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), DHS is responsible for collecting the next largest source of revenue collection. In fiscal year 2009, U.S. companies imported more than $1.73 trillion in goods and deposited an estimated $22.1 billion in duties into the U.S. Treasury. Stronger enforcement of antidumping tariffs will not only help continue the U.S. economic recovery and protect jobs, but also help close the U.S. budget deficit.

This February, Sen. Landrieu appeared before the International Trade Commission (ITC) and urged it to extend the antidumping tariffs on imported shrimp from Thailand, China, Vietnam, India and Brazil. The ITC voted in March to continue the import duties for five more years through 2016.

The Louisiana shrimp industry contributes more than $1 billion annually to the state’s economy and supports 5,000 active shrimpers and thousands of other individuals indirectly employed by the industry. The Gulf Coast shrimp industry has been triple-hit by hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, Gustav and Ike in 2008 and then the BP Oil Spill in April 2010.

The Jones Act is designed to strengthen the economic and military security of the United States by ensuring the existence of a robust merchant marine fleet. Louisiana ranks No. 1 in the United States for jobs, economic output, labor compensation and value added related to the domestic maritime industry. The industry is responsible for 61,956 jobs and an annual gross economic output of $14.25 billion in Louisiana. Because many industries work in the Gulf Coast with people stationed at sea, Sen. Landrieu believes that there is an opportunity for public-private partnerships to serve as the eyes and ears of Coast Guard.

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