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Baldwin Leads Bipartisan Bill to Catch More Packages Containing Illegal Drugs like Fentanyl, Counterfeit Goods

Baldwin also leads bipartisan effort to close loophole that’s allowing bad actors to evade scrutiny for small-dollar packages

WASHINGTON, D.C – U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Mike Braun (R-IN) introduced the Ensure Accountability in the De Minimis Act, bipartisan legislation to help stop packages coming into the United States that contain illicit drugs like fentanyl, counterfeit goods, or products made with forced labor. The bill provides clarity for what kind of small-dollar products and packages can enter the country through the expedited process that has minimal customs scrutiny. Currently, small-dollar imports with a value of less than $800 are allowed into the U.S. duty-free and with little customs scrutiny, known as the de minimis channel. However, this channel has been abused by countries like China who are sending hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of products into the U.S. market, undermining U.S. manufacturers and letting illicit substances into our communities.

“We have a responsibility to ensure packages that are coming into our country are not harming Americans, but right now we are falling short. Bad actors in China are taking advantage of a trade loophole to traffic counterfeit goods that undermine our businesses and illegal substances like fentanyl that are crushing our communities. We must do more to stop it,” said Senator Baldwin. “I’m proud to work with Republicans and Democrats to give us tools to better identify these counterfeit products and harmful drugs from coming into the country, hold bad actors accountable, and protect American families. I am glad to take this step forward and will keep fighting to close this trade loophole that is allowing fentanyl into the country.”

“This bill would increase transparency and accountability for bad actors that take advantage of the de minimis threshold. In recent years, the majority of de minimis shipments have come from China, our top trade competitor. We need to make sure they are not gaming the system,” said Senator Braun.

According to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), more than 771 million packages came into the U.S. under the de minimis rule that lacks customs scrutiny in Fiscal Year 2021, almost double the amount of packages in Fiscal Year 2018. Of the 771.5 million packages, over half originated in China.

The Ensure Accountability in the De Minimis Act requires Treasury and CBP to craft regulations to enhance data collection for de minimis imports to determine if 1) they are made with forced labor; 2) they are counterfeit; or, 3) they are a controlled substance (i.e. fentanyl or precursor chemicals). Additionally, the bill limits which persons are allowed to use the channel, increases coordination between agencies monitoring international trade, and strengthens penalties for repeat offenders who are abusing the channel.

Last year, Senators Baldwin and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) introduced the De Minimis Reciprocity Act to close the de minimis loophole by excluding untrustworthy countries like China from using the de minimis channel. The bipartisan legislation would also require more information on every package entering the U.S. and use the revenue proceeds to establish a fund for reshoring industry from China.

Full text of this legislation is available here.