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LOS ANGELES / LONG BEACH WATERFRONT LABOR NEGOTIATIONS UPDATE

Office Clerical Workers Approve LA-LB Contracts

Los Angeles / Long Beach Harbor Employers Association/ http://www.ilaunion.org/news_Local%20Agreements.html

Released Statement:  "LOS ANGELES (Feb. 20, 2013) - John Fageaux, lead negotiator for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 Office Clerical Unit (OCU) and Stephen Berry, lead negotiator for the employers of the OCU at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, jointly released the following statement:

Tonight, OCU bargaining units voted and agreed to ratify the terms of tentative agreements reached with the Harbor Employers Association member companies on December 4, 2012. The contracts for the roughly 600 office clerical workers and the 14 employers at the ports will run through June 30, 2016.

The approved agreements, to be finalized in coming days, are good for workers, good for employers and - most of all - important in ensuring smooth operations at our Southern California ports. Our local, regional and national economies depend on these ports, and the agreements ratified tonight pave the way for continued growth in the years ahead."


ICE and CBP Announce Charges Linked to Major Commercial Fraud Enterprise Honey Anti-Dumping Case is One of the Largest in US History

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforecement (ICE) / http://www.ice.gov/news/releases/1302/130220chicago.htm

CHICAGO — Five individuals and two domestic honey-processing companies have been charged with federal crimes in connection with a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)-led investigation surrounding illegal importations of honey from China.

The charges assert that the Chinese-origin honey was misdeclared as other commodities upon importation into the United States and transshipped through other countries to evade anti-dumping duties. Altogether, the seven defendants allegedly evaded anti-dumping duties totaling more than $180 million.

According to industry experts, anti-dumping circumvention schemes like the one announced today create a divergent market which negatively affects legitimate business. To combat this, HSI and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have stepped up efforts regarding commercial fraud investigations that focus on U.S. economic and health and safety interests.

The charges represent the second phase of an investigation led by HSI. In June 2011, an HSI undercover special agent assumed the role of the director of procurement at Honey Holding I Ltd., which by then was cooperating with the investigation.

Honey Holding, doing business as Honey Solutions, of Baytown, Texas, and Groeb Farms Inc., of Onsted, Mich. – two of the nation's largest honey suppliers – have both entered into deferred prosecution agreements with the government. Honey Holding has agreed to pay $1 million and Groeb Farms has agreed to pay $2 million in fines. Both companies have also agreed to implement corporate compliance programs as part of their respective agreements.

"These businesses intentionally deprived the U.S. government of millions of dollars in unpaid duties," said ICE Deputy Director Daniel Ragsdale. "Schemes like this result in legitimate importers and the domestic honey-producing industry enduring years of unprofitable operations, with some even being put out of business. We will continue to enforce criminal violations of anti-dumping laws in all industries so American and foreign businesses all play by the same rules."

The individual defendants include three honey brokers, the former director of sales for Honey Holding, and the president of Premium Food Sales Inc., a broker and distributor of raw and processed honey in Bradford, Ontario.

In December 2001, the Commerce Department determined that Chinese-origin honey was being sold in the United States at less than fair market value, and imposed anti-dumping duties. The duties were as high as 221 percent of the declared value, and later were assessed against the entered net weight, currently at $2.63 per net kilogram, in addition to a honey assessment fee of one cent per pound of all honey.

In 2008, federal authorities began investigating allegations involving circumventing anti-dumping duties through illegal imports, including transshipment and mislabeling on the supply side of the honey industry. The investigation resulted in charges against 14 individuals, including executives of Alfred L. Wolff GmbH and several affiliated companies of the German food conglomerate. The defendants were charged with allegedly evading approximately $80 million in anti-dumping duties on Chinese-origin honey. Authorities seized and forfeited more than 3,000 drums of honey that illegally entered the United States.

The second phase of the investigation, announced today, involves allegations of illegal buying, processing and trading of honey that illegally entered the United States on the demand side of the industry. Some of that honey was adulterated with antibiotics not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in honey. None of the charges allege any instances of illness or other public health consequences attributed to consumption of the honey. The investigation is continuing.

"Trade fraud can have significant implications for the U.S. economy and consumers," said CBP Chief Operating Officer Thomas S. Winkowski. "These products take jobs away from American workers and frequently violate U.S. health and safety standards, potentially endangering the public. CBP is committed to fighting these fraudulent actors alongside our government partners."

The government is being represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew S. Boutros in the Northern District of Illinois.

"We applaud the efforts of HSI, CBP, and other agencies involved in this complex, long-term investigation to enforce the laws that exist to protect U.S. consumers and the honey market," said Gary S. Shapiro, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.

The HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) assisted with this investigation. The IPR Center is one of the U.S. government's key weapons in the fight against counterfeiting, piracy, and commercial trade fraud. Working in close coordination with the Department of Justice Task Force on Intellectual Property, the IPR Center uses the expertise of its 21-member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions and conduct investigations related to intellectual property theft. Through this strategic interagency partnership, the IPR Center protects the public's health and safety, the U.S. economy and the war fighters.


CBP Processes Cruise Ship Passengers at Sea

U.S. Customs & Border Protection / http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/newsroom/news_releases/local/02152013.xml

Mobile, Ala. - U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) worked closely with Carnival Cruise lines and the U.S. Coast Guard to expedite the safe return and processing of passengers aboard the Carnival Triumph cruise ship into the U.S.

Due to the unusual circumstances surrounding this instance, CBP approved a joint enforcement boarding of the Carnival Triumph in order to expedite the clearance processing of the passengers and crew.
 
CBP marine support approaches the Carnival Triumph.
 
This joint enforcement team consisted of CBP officers from the Port of Mobile, Alabama along with agents from the Office of Air and Marine (OAM) New Orleans Air and Marine Branch.

“CBP demonstrated our commitment to doing everything possible to expedite the usual processing of travelers returning home,” said CBP Area Port of Mobile Director, Raymond Polley. “Our officers worked tirelessly onboard the Triumph to process approximately 4,000 passengers and crew as safely and efficiently as possible.”

CBP deployed two 33’ Safe Boats from the New Orleans Air and Marine Branch to transport CBP officers, marine interdiction agents, and U.S. Coast Guard personnel to this ship. Additionally, given the cruise ship terminal at the Port of Mobile is no longer operational, CBP employees temporarily restored secured internet operations to the terminal to ensure the efficient processing of the passengers as quickly and safely as possible.


CBP and CPSC Seize Lead-Contaminated Toys in San Juan

U.S. Customs & Border Protection / http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/newsroom/news_releases/national/02082013_8.xml

Washington — U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers and Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) investigators have seized multiple shipments of nearly 30,000 toys imported into the port of San Juan, Puerto Rico, containing levels of lead that exceed legal limits. The total domestic value for the shipments is estimated to be more than $335,000. The shipments were targeted by the CBP Commercial Targeting and Analysis Center (CTAC).

“The concerted targeting efforts of the CTAC and the vigilance of CBP officers at our ports of entry ensure that toys are safe for children,” said Allen Gina, CBP’s assistant commissioner for international trade. “Ensuring the safety of imported merchandise is a top priority for CBP.”

CBP works closely with CPSC at ports of entry to identify potentially unsafe shipments to ensure the safety of imported toys. CPSC has established permanent staffing at the CTAC in Washington and is working with CBP to stop unsafe imports from entering the U.S.

The CTAC combines resources and personnel from various government agencies to protect the American public from harm caused by unsafe imported products. The center accomplishes this through better communication, information-sharing and by reducing redundant inspection activities. 

Digital Trade:  USITC Begins Second of Two Investigations

U.S. International Trade Commission  /http://www.usitc.gov/press_room/news_release/2013/er0219ll1.htm

The U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) has launched the second of two investigations into the role of digital trade in the U.S. and global economies.

The investigation, Digital Trade in the U.S. and Global Economies, Part 2, is the second report of two requested by the Committee on Finance, U.S. Senate, in a letter received on December 14, 2012.

In its letter requesting the investigations, the Committee stated: "Digital trade has increased rapidly in recent years and is an increasingly important activity within the global economy. ...[P]olicymakers are facing unprecedented challenges as they seek to ensure that digital trade remains open while producers' and consumers' data remain secure."

As requested, the USITC will deliver two reports to the Committee. The first investigation, Digital Trade in the U.S. and Global Economies, Part I, was instituted on January 7, 2013.

In the second investigation, the USITC, an independent, nonpartisan, factfinding federal agency, will conduct a survey of U.S. firms in selected industries particularly involved in digital trade. The second report will build on the first report to:

  • estimate the value of U.S. digital trade and the potential growth of this trade;
  • examine the broader linkages and contributions of digital trade to the U.S. economy;
  • present case studies that examine the importance of digital trade to selected U.S. industries that use or produce such goods and services; and
  • examine the effect of notable barriers to digital trade on selected industries and the broader U.S. economy.  

The USITC expects to deliver the second report to the Committee by July 14, 2014.

For the purposes of these reports, "digital trade" encompasses commerce in products and services delivered over digital networks. Examples include software, digital media files (e.g., e-books and digital audio files), and services such as data processing and hosting. The report will also examine how other industries, such as financial services and retailing, make use of digital products and services for production and trade.

The USITC will hold a public hearing in connection with this at 9:30 a.m. on March 7, 2013. Requests to appear at the hearing should be filed no later than 5:15 p.m. on February 28, 2013, with the Secretary, U.S. International Trade Commission, 500 E Street SW, Washington, DC 20436. For further information, call 202-205-2000.

The USITC also welcomes written submissions for the record. Written submissions for these investigations should be addressed to the Secretary at the above address and should be submitted at the earliest practical date, but no later than 5:15 p.m. on March 21, 2014. All written submissions, except for confidential business information, will be available for public inspection.

Further information on the scope of the investigations and appropriate submissions is available in the USITC's notice of investigation, dated January 8, 2013, and February 19, 2013, which can be obtained from the USITC Internet site (www.usitc.gov) or by contacting the Office of the Secretary at 202-205-2000.

USITC general factfinding investigations, such as these, cover matters related to tariffs or trade and are generally conducted at the request of the U.S. Trade Representative, the House Committee on Ways and Means, and the Senate Committee on Finance. The resulting reports convey the Commission's objective findings and independent analyses on the subject investigated. The Commission makes no recommendations on policy or other matters in its general factfinding reports. Upon completion of each investigation, the USITC submits its findings and analyses to the requester. General factfinding investigations reports are subsequently released to the public, unless they are classified by the requester for national security reasons.


CBP Seizes 205 pounds of Khat

U.S. Customs & Border Protection / http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/newsroom/news_releases/local/02202013_5.xml

Chicago — U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers recently seized more than 205 pounds of Khat concealed in computers that arrived in Chicago as part of an international freight shipment.

Based on intelligence provided by CBP officers at the FedEx facility in Indianapolis, the Chicago officers X-rayed the computers and observed anomalies. They opened the computers and found several bundles of Khat. Khat is a plant native to parts of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula and which is classified as a controlled substance. No arrests have been made at this time; however, the information has been shared with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

“This is outstanding work by our officers in both Chicago and Indianapolis,” said William Ferrara,acting director of CBP Chicago Office of Field Operations. “The interesting part of this seizure is the way the Khat was hidden inside the computers. Concealment methods vary and can be very difficult to detect but CBP officers are well trained, experienced and strongly motivated in detecting any type of contraband.”

The Khat shrub grows in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Yemen.Individuals who abuse Khat typically experience a state of mild depression following periods of prolonged use. Taken in excess Khat causes extreme thirst, hyperactivity, insomnia, and loss of appetite. Khat can reduce the user’s motivation and can cause manic behavior with grandiose delusions, paranoia, and hallucinations. Khat can cause damage to the nervous, respiratory, circulatory, and digestive systems. Khat is classified as a Schedule IV drug.

CBP officers and agriculture specialists are stationed at express consignment and cargo facilities throughout the country. CBP is constantly examining arriving international freight and on the lookout for any type of contraband or prohibited items being shipped to the United States.
 
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