Senate legislation has been introduced in Washington to restrict non-market economies, for example China, from using the de minimis threshold to import products, including e-bikes and lithium-ion batteries, that are potentially unsafe for the US market
The Import Security and Fairness Act was submitted by reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Neal Dunn (R-Fla.), and Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and follows the original bill passed in January 2022 that strives to keep economies from taking advantage of the $800 de minimis threshold. Already an estimated two million packages enter the US under that threshold on a daily basis, without inspection, duties, and taxes, including e-bikes and lithium-ion batteries.
Lithium-ion batteries and unregulated e-bikes regularly enter the US, through the direct-to-consumer retail stream.
Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade member, Earl Blumenauer, commented, “The de minimis loophole is a threat to American competitiveness, consumer safety, and basic human rights,” further mentioning, “It is used by primarily Chinese companies to ship over two million packages a day into the United States. It puts American businesses at a competitive disadvantage while flooding American consumers with undoubtedly harmful products. There is virtually no way to tell whether packages that come in under the de minimis limit contain products made with forced labor, intellectual property theft, or are otherwise dangerous. It is time to close this loophole once and for all.”
Under the Import Security and Fairness Act, Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) would be required to collect more information on all de minimis shipments whilst paying close attention to those importing the products, prohibiting any that have been suspended or debarred from using the rule.
Because off-shore retailers are out of reach from the US government and the legal system, products entering under the de minimis rule can also avoid Product Safety Commission regulations. Blumenauer suggested that some importers use strategies such as “creative invoicing” in which haulers and manufacturers adjust invoice values to below $800.
Blumenauer went on to say, “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.
“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.”
The legislation has been endorsed by a number of leading US organisations and think tanks.