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CPA, Blumenauer Say WH Can Act on de Minimis Without Congress

The Coalition for a Prosperous America, joined by organizations that advocate for opiate addicts and by police organizations, asked the White House to "delink e-commerce transactions from Section 321 privileges," in a letter sent Nov. 29.

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The letter argues that the de minimis entry process "allows individual packages to be shipped directly to American consumers with virtually no inspection or documentation and free of duty if the contents are valued beneath the de minimis threshold of $800. Along with the rise of e-commerce and mass distribution shippers, this provision has exploded in popularity creating a supercharged black-market for counterfeit products, goods produced with slave labor, hazardous materials, and illicit drugs. Considering the fact that U.S. law enforcement resources are already being exhausted to combat this critical threat, coupled with the devastating impact fentanyl is having to families across the United States, we must immediately close this backdoor that is facilitating small packages of virtually uninspected boxes containing illicit drugs to our doorsteps."

The letter quoted CBP Acting Commissioner Troy Miller saying "screening these shipments and ferreting out contraband is incredibly challenging." The authors added: "In short, as long as this provision exists, CBP officials have virtually no means of stopping the importation of illicit drugs, such as fentanyl, and other dangerous substances that are imported under the de minimis provision."

Members of Congress have introduced bills to either lower the de minimis threshold to make it match others' levels, or to remove China from eligibility.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., the first member to advocate for changes to de minimis and still a leading advocate for removing China, said Democrats on the trade subcommittee will have a roundtable on the issue shortly. He noted that the House Select Committee also wants to curtail de minimis for Chinese exporters.

"A lot of pressure's building. And I think this is one of those rare areas that there can be bipartisan support, solves a problem, and it's simple." He said while he thought his bill is "very strategic," he would be open to broadening it, if that is the consensus.

Blumenauer said he would like to attach the provision to "any train that leaves the station," but he also revealed a little skepticism about its prospects by saying the White House could adjust de minimis without congressional action.

"There's things that can be done administratively -- we're putting on a full-court press." he said.