Apparel Sourcing Intelligence - Worldwide

Customs recruiting spin doctors

“It’s politics pure and simple”

That’s how Laura Jones of the US Textile Importers’ Association described a US Customs’ decision to reduce China’s quota for 2008, because of illegal imports from China in earlier years purporting to be from elsewhere. Which seems pretty harsh: US Customs have a job to do, there’s no doubt there’s illegal garments being smuggled in, or being imported as if they’d come from somewhere without quota restrictions, and since there’s zero chance US importers are going to be short of Chinese quota this year, a reduction doesn’t matter.

But Ms Jones has an important point to make. US Customs claims to have found $80 mn of illegally imported clothes in 2006 and 2007. Which is a fleabite in he $145 BILLION of clothes the US imported over the same time – and given that imports are well below quota, illegal imports just aren’t a real issue anyway. And there’s a bit of a history of well-staged raids – on one occasion apparently synchronised with a completely unrelated raid by EU enforcers – that seem to owe more top publicity value than the seriousness of the crime.

No-one’s condoning illegality, and no doubt a bit of publicity is needed from time to time to show the officials are on the job. But there’s a running complaint from US importers of heavy-handed enforcement, and far too frequent detention of imports for trivial documentation problems that turn out to be ill-founded anyway.

Meanwhile, the real problem is probably elsewhere. Indonesia’s imports from China look absurd – and although Indonesian textile manufacturers comp[lain every month, they do little about the common belief much of those illegal imports just get shipped to the US and Europe as if they were Indonesian.

The enemy in all this really isn’t innocent US and EU importers