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Blumenauer: De minimis reform bill being prepared for reintroduction

Published May 24, 2023

WASHINGTON (BRAIN) — Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) said during a media Zoom call on Wednesday that the Import Security and Fairness Act that addresses de minimis reform is being finalized for reintroduction into Congress.

The bill, originally introduced in January 2022, would bar non-market economies — China and Russia — from taking advantage of the $800 de minimis threshold. Goods under the threshold, estimated by Blumenauer to be in excess of two million packages daily, enter the U.S. without tariffs, inspection, nor accountability for product integrity. It could slow the flow of unregulated e-bikes and lithium-ion batteries into the U.S. Currently, direct-to-consumer retailers, particularly from China, can sell those products without certificates of conformity. They can be sold well below market cost because no duties, federal, state, or local taxes are paid. 

Those products also can enter the U.S. market bypassing Consumer Product Safety Commission regulations because off-shore retailers are out of reach of the U.S. government and legal system. Blumenauer, the ranking member of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade, said some use strategies such as “creative invoicing” with shippers and manufacturers adjusting the invoice value below $800.

“Part of what's happening with the ‘creative invoicing’ is we see an explosion — and I use that term advisedly — of e-bikes that are $799, and we've had a number of problems because they have defective batteries, especially in New York, but in other places,” said Blumenauer, who added he has spoken with the Consumer Product Safety Commission about taking additional measures. “I think there are a series of steps that need to be taken to deal with what is a genuine threat to public safety as well as unfair competition.”

Blumenauer spoke a day before the Trade Subcommittee’s hearing, “Modernizing Customs Policies to Protect American Workers and Secure Supply Chains”

Repeatedly emphasizing the bill is not a cure-all, Blumenauer said the legislation would be a necessary start. “I think we’ll take it one step at a time to see what happens, but this would be an important step forward to be able to start shutting off the spigot,” he said.

Getting bipartisan support would seem to be a toss-up these days, but Blumenauer expressed optimism.

“We succeeded in getting widespread attention to the abuse,” Blumenauer said.. ... “I'm looking forward to introducing our legislation and working with members of my trade subcommittee, and others in the leadership of the committee on both sides of the aisle. I think we've passed an important milestone in terms of awareness people have about the problem that needs to be addressed. 

“We have had conversations with people in the Senate. I’m not at liberty to discuss them. These are ongoing, but I know there is significant interest on the part of Senate counterparts. We'll continue to have conversations, and I think there will be bipartisan support on the Senate side for this or similar legislation.” 

Topics associated with this article: Electric bike

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