US congresswoman Rosa DeLauro and 40 bipartisan lawmakers sent a letter to Mayorkas asking him to come up with a “concrete action plan” to address illegal custom practices that undercut US competitiveness and violate international trade and labour laws.

The letter also calls on Mayorkas to crack down on the de minimis trade loopholes that are said to be allowing cheap fast-fashion products to flow into the US.

Kim Glas, president, and CEO of the National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO), applauded Congresswoman DeLauro’s leadership in rallying bipartisan support for the initiative as she claimed the “massive trade fraud and illegal imports entering the US market” are “creating enormous economic harm to this strategic sector”.

Glas highlighted the urgent need for a robust enforcement plan, particularly amid the backdrop of economic challenges faced by the textile industry, with several plants shutting down in recent months.

She said: “We agree with the congresswoman that the Administration plan should close the de minimis loophole harming our sector and facilitating illegal and illicit products.

“We also strongly agree it must be implemented swiftly and include stepped-up enforcement of false origin claims under our free trade agreements with maximum penalties and stepped-up enforcement of the UFLPA with associated penalties. This vital sector is critical to our national security and health preparedness.”

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The letter noted the illegal customs practices that are taking place include but not limited to:

  • Abuse of the Sec. 321 de minimis tariff wavier system
  • Circumvention of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, Sec. 301 penalty tariffs and other trade enforcement measures
  • False origin claims under US free trade agreements that displace domestic and regionally-produced textiles and apparel.

The coalition wants Mayorkas to develop and implement an enforcement strategy to combat illegal customs practices that erode US competitiveness and violate international trade and labour laws.

“The importance of the contents of the action plan and its immediate implementation cannot be overstated,” the lawmakers emphasised in their letter.

The co-signees underscored the critical role of such measures in safeguarding not only the US economy but also vital industries such as textiles, which employs 550,000 workers and produces $66bn in annual output. The letter also highlighted the significance of the industry for producing goods for national defence and public health such as essential medical protective equipment.

The letter also pointed out an enforcement plan is needed to further the goals of the President’s US Supply Chain Resilience project that Mayorkas helped to launch in November of last year.

The letter continued: “This problem cannot be fixed without a robust enforcement plan that has teeth and can be deployed expeditiously.”

US senators Sherrod Brown and Rick Scott called on the Biden administration earlier this week (26 February) to use executive action under the Tariff Act of 1930 to close the ‘de minimis’ rule, which they believe foreign competitors are exploiting to evade duties and fees, giving them “unfair” advantage over US businesses.