WASHINGTON — The Coalition for a Prosperous America (CPA) today urged U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to issue a public correction after CBP’s Office of Trade released false government statistics last week on de minimis shipments. CBP stated that the total value of de minimis shipments fell from $67,039,140,875 in Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 to $39,876,651,152 in FY 2021. These numbers are not accurate, and in fact are certainly a gross, material undervaluation, which happens to be a serious offense in customs law.
CPA reached out to a trusted source at CBP to ask how the Office of Trade managed to put a precise number on the value of de minimis shipments. The CBP source replied that the amounts were only the totals of de minimis shipments entered with electronic bills of lading, and did not include the value of de minimis shipments where this information was not available, which includes most international mail shipments.
“De Minimis” shipments refers to shipments that are imported into the United States via Section 321 of the Tariff Act of 1930. Section 321 is available to any vendor worldwide if they claim that their shipment’s value is under $800. If they make this claim, then their shipment can be sent to the United States free of any tax or tariff, without having to report basic data, and with almost no chance of being scrutinized by CBP. CPA has called for closing the de minimis loophole and supports U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer’s (D-OR) Import Security and Fairness Act to do just that. CBP officials have joked that de minimis is a free trade agreement with China.
CBP’s new report (CBP Publication No. 2036-1022) was the first time CBP has ever reported an official value for de minimis imports. The reason the agency has never reported a value is because CBP does not know the true value for any period of time. They do not know because the majority of de minimis shipments arrive via international mail, and most international mail shipments do not contain electronic data. Thus for CBP to know the total value of de minimis shipments, it would need to be manually logging the value of the hundreds of millions of shipments entered without electronic manifests in 2021 alone.
“Although CBP admitted to CPA staff that the de minimis statistics are false, it’s unconscionable that a government agency tasked with protecting our borders would issue fraudulent numbers,” said Michael Stumo. “CBP should issue a public correction immediately or admit that they do not and cannot provide accurate numbers because vendors don’t provide that information. Furthermore, Congress should pass Congressman Blumenauer’s legislation to close the de minimis loophole once and for all.”
A poll of registered voters, conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of the Coalition for a Prosperous America (CPA), shows an overwhelming majority (81%) of voters—including 79% of Democrats; 75% of Independents; 86% of Republicans—support the U.S. government prohibiting countries like China that pose a threat to American workers from using de minimis to export foreign-made goods to the U.S. Additionally, three times as many voters support Congress lowering the de minimis value as opposed to voters who want to increase it.
Earlier this year, CPA’s Economics Team released an analysis that found that the impact of de minimis on the U.S. economy is large and getting larger. CPA estimates the value of de minimis imports into the U.S. at $128 billion last year, suggesting our actual trade deficit in 2021 was 15% higher than official figures show, and U.S GDP was slightly lower. Rising de minimis imports cost the U.S. hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs and hurt the U.S. manufacturing and bricks-and-mortar retail sectors.