IMPORTERS, CUSTOMS COLLABORATE ON ANTI-TRANSSHIPPING GUIDE

Byline: Jennifer Owens

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel has responded to a U.S. Customs request by developing a guidebook to help importers avoid illegal transshipping.
Now available to members and nonmembers through USA-ITA, the guidebook is the first joint effort between Customs and the trade industry in the government’s ongoing struggle against illegal transshipping.
It’s a fight, said Richard Crichton, an international trade manager with Customs, that “has always been more confrontational than cooperational, with two different opposing views of what were the real issues of transshipments.”
Trying to bridge that gap, Janet Labuda, a manager in Customs’ Office of Strategic Trade, asked USA-ITA last March to develop an anti-transshipment guidebook as part of Customs’ crackdown on textile and apparel transshipments.
Crighton, who worked with Labuda to advise USA-ITA as it wrote the guidebook, said Customs is pleased with the results.
“It’s certainly not going to solve all the problems,” he said. “But it’s a handy guide for someone new.”
Laura Jones, executive director of USA-ITA, which has printed more than 500 copies of the handbook, said the guide includes suggestions on what importers should look for and ask about during factory reviews. The idea, she said, is to help importers accurately verify country of origin and avoid potential penalties and seizure of goods.
“We want our community to do the right thing,” she said. “And a lot of our importers are victims [of Customs’ crackdown on illegal transshipping]… and they may not even be aware that they’re a victim of this.”
Jane O’Dell, import manager for Eddie Bauer Inc. and a member of the USA-ITA group that produced the guidebook, praised Customs for being open to importer suggestions.
“I think they learned a lot about how business operates,” she said, adding that in recent years Customs has discovered “that it’s best to encourage cooperation to catch criminals.”
Meanwhile, Frank Kelly, vice president of customs and international trade for Liz Claiborne, said the handbook should help importers comply with Customs’ “reasonable care” requirement.
“You just have to be careful. That’s the whole idea behind this book,” said Kelly, who also worked on the publication. He cautioned, though, that “companies do random audits on their factories — just using this book alone won’t help you.”
The handbook, called “How to Avoid Illegal Transshipments,” costs $50 for USA-ITA members and $85 for nonmembers.

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