NFI wins lawsuit over shrimp bonding


Steven Hedlund

Published on
August 30, 2009

 A U.S. Court of International Trade judge in New York has ordered U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to reconsider its enhanced bonding requirement (EBR), ruling that the measure "arbitrarily and capriciously" targeted U.S. shrimp importers.

The National Fisheries Institute of McLean, Va., which filed the lawsuit in 2005 on behalf of 27 of its shrimp-importing members, applauded Judge Timothy Stanceu's Tuesday ruling.

"Nearly four years after we first filed suit, this is a significant victory for our members," said NFI President John Connelly. "We look forward to working with the surety companies to make certain that, going forward, these bonds reflect actual risk. Likewise, we are prepared to work with Customs in any way we can to help them quickly and properly re-determine the bonds."

CBP — the U.S. government's No. 2 revenue-generating agency — adopted the EBR in mid-2004 to prevent tariff evasion. But the measure was applied to only shrimp, a product with no history of tariff evasion at the time. The U.S. government didn't enact antidumping tariffs on shrimp imports from Thailand, Vietnam, China, India, Ecuador and Brazil until late 2004 and early 2005.

Consequently, shrimp importers went from paying a $50,000 bond annually to a bond totaling hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars, money that's tied up for a year or more.

Stanceu agreed with NFI that the bonds are excessive and that CBP does not possess the authority to set EBRs based on liability.

"It appears from the record that the decision to single out shrimp importers was motivated entirely by considerations other than any unique risk to the revenue that such importers actually posed," said Stanceu.

The judge gave CBP 60 days to re-determine the value of the bonds in question.

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