CUSTOMS LIFTS HONG KONG RESTRICTIONS

Byline: Jennifer Owens

WASHINGTON — A month of observing Hong Kong’s increased efforts to curb transshipping has convinced U.S. Customs to drop its single-entry bond requirements on eight categories of apparel from the island as of May 1.
Customs placed requirements for additional documentation and single-entry bonds on these shipments from Hong Kong last June in an effort to combat transshipments of goods from China in several key categories, such as women’s skirts and dresses, nightwear and underwear.
Importers objected strongly to the additional requirements, which were both costly and time consuming.
The lifting of the single-entry bond requirement comes after two rounds of factory visits and discussions with Hong Kong officials, said Janet Labuda, a manager in Custom’s Office of Strategic Trade. “This is something to motivate them to stay on the path that they’re on,” she said.
Customs said Wednesday it will now allow the usual continuous bonds — rather than the single-entry bonds — on all Hong Kong products, but will also require importers to provide more information on their manufacturers. Goods without proper documentation will not be released by the U.S. Customs Port Director.
“We are asking importers for a little more information, such as names and addresses of the manufacturers, not just trading houses,” Labuda explained. That information should help agents now freed from anti-transshipment efforts once covering all Hong Kong goods to watch for singular problems.
“It will be easier to focus our efforts on areas that are more high risk,” she said. “What is critical here is that as more and more information is being made available to Customs on the transshipping problem…the goods are going to be denied entry into the U.S.”
Customs said it plans to review the amount of continuous bond required for all importers of textile and textile product claiming Hong Kong as the country of origin. “Companies with insufficient coverage based on their annual trade can anticipate that U.S. Customs will require increased bond coverage,” it said.
In its new approach, Customs will now expand regulations requiring a signature from the manufacturer to cover all textile and apparel products from Hong Kong, although the original signature will no longer have to be presented at the time of entry, as was required for the eight suspect categories. While a copy of the textile declaration may be presented, the original signature copy must be maintained and be made available to U.S. Customs upon request.
Finally, certification by the importer that the information on the textile declaration is accurate and complete will still be required and will be expanded to cover all textile and apparel products that claim Hong Kong as the country of origin.
“Customs is satisfied with the progress and cooperation shown by the government of Hong Kong in working to identify and prosecute illegal transshippers over the last few months,” Customs said.
“However, we recognize that there is an illegal transshipment problem through Hong Kong, which needs to continue to be combated by both governments.”
Customs said it does not plan to return for more Hong Kong factory visits in the near future, but said the approach has proven “extremely useful.” Therefore, “we anticipate that joint observations will continue to occur in order to coordinate our efforts.”

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