Customs Audit Photo

Tips for a Successful Customs Audit: Event Recap

With the new fiscal year starting on October 1st, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“Customs”) will begin to notify U.S. importers of their selection for and required participation in various audit and assessment programs. As FTI Consulting’s (“FTI”), Alison Jacobs, Courtney Stiers, and Matt Williams discussed, Customs has been increasingly focused on enforcement recently, and importers can probably expect this trend to continue into the next fiscal year.

MITA kicked off the 2023-2024 program year on September 19th by partnering with FTI Consulting to host a webinar focused on CBP audits and assessment programs. The presentation included a discussion on how to engage with Customs during an audit or assessment, how to provide information efficiently and carefully to Customs, and how to make sure your compliance programs and internal controls are prepared now for the possibility of an audit or assessment in the future. Relying on their own experience in developing compliance programs and guiding their clients through Customs audits, the speakers were able to share a valuable perspective on what Customs is looking for and where importers regularly make small mistakes, such as missing deadlines for questionnaire responses or providing too much information to Customs. These small mistakes can have big impacts.

As FTI mentioned throughout their presentation, “you don’t have to get ready if you stay ready.” Importers who develop strong compliance programs, perform their own audits of these programs, and stay up to date on recent regulatory changes and updates will be better prepared if selected for a Customs audit.

MITA members not only get access to valuable programs like these throughout the year, but the opportunity to network with other importers, brokers, and service providers within the international trade industry in Wisconsin. What better way to stay up to date on new trends, regulatory changes, and insights in international  trade than by engaging with a community of other trade professionals? Sign up today for a MITA membership and don’t miss our next event on “Mastering the Current Global Supply Chain Landscape” on October 10th  at the Fluno Center in Madison, WI.

Register Here:

Check out FTI Consulting services here:


USITC Findings on Foreign Trade Zones

For the first time since 1988, the US Trade Representative (“USTR”) requested that the US International Trade Commission (“USITC”) evaluate the foreign Trade zone (“FTZ”) program, specifically evaluating the program’s impact on employment and competitiveness of goods produced in FTZs.[1] Thus, the USITC instituted the “Foreign Trade Zones (FTZs): Effects of FTZ Policies and Practices on U.S. Firms Operating in U.S. FTZs and Under Similar Programs in Canada and Mexico” investigation.

Following a review of questionnaire responses from FTZ Operators and other data collected about US FTZ use, the USITC released their final report on May 15, 2023. This extensive report includes the following highlights:

  1. U.S. FTZ Operators regularly see increased cost competitiveness. Firms utilizing the FTZ program, specifically for manufacturing activity, experienced duty cost savings of $1.2 billion in 2021. These savings are primarily achieved through duty deferral on shipments that make customs entry in the United States and duty exemption on direct export shipments.  
  • The FTZ Program drives U.S. employment and investment. This study found that FTZ activity creates opportunities for employment and investment beyond just FTZ operators. For example, the USITC found a trend of “supplier firms cluster[ing] around [FTZ] facilities.” Thus, regions with FTZ activity generally see additional employment and development.
  • FTZ Operators are regularly missing an opportunity for duty savings on “indirect export shipments”. This investigation reported about 77 percent of export shipments being “indirectly exported,” meaning the shipment was previously entered into U.S. commerce before being exported. This is a significant opportunity for duty savings by FTZ Operators that is not being utilized.
  • FTZ Operators continue to be disadvantaged by U.S. De Minimis provisions. U.S. FTZ provisions require FTZ Operators of warehousing and distribution zones to pay duty on shipments valued at less than $800 even though those shipments would normally be below the de minimis threshold and duty free for U.S. Importers. These provisions regularly push companies to set up warehouse or distribution facilities in Canada or Mexico rather than keeping that activity in the U.S.

Overall, this report highlights the many economic benefits of the FTZ program, but it also highlights the work still to be done in leveling playing field between U.S. FTZ operators and their foreign competitors. This is only a report of facts and findings, but it may be crucial to future policy development for the FTZ program. 

[1] This factfinding investigation by the USITC is conducted under section 332(g) of the Tariff Act of 1930.

Supply Chain

Message from MITA’s new President, Carla Kutsche

I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce myself as the recently elected Madison International Trade Association (MITA) President for 2023 and to welcome you to another year of informing, networking and connecting with MITA.

I, along with the Executive Team of Dan Brink (Vice President), Phil Gantz (Treasurer) and Maureen Muldoon (Secretary), as well as the entire Board of Directors, are excited to serve you this year.  Board of Director elections were held in December. We are pleased to welcome four new directors to the Board. Below is a list of the 2023 Board Directors. Their contact information can be found on the MITA website.

  • Poonam Arora, Arnold Magnetics
  • Aleda Bourassa, International Customs Services, Inc. (ICS)
  • Dan Brink, Dewitt LLP
  • Maria Magyar Cartier, Port Milwaukee
  • Phil Gantz, Wells Fargo
  • Nicole Hess, M.E. Dey
  • Alison Jacobs, FTI Consulting
  • Paul Jarzombek, LR International
  • Germaine Krystowiak, Swarming Technology
  • Carla Kutsche, STAR7
  • Maureen Muldoon, Trek Bicycle Inc.(retired)
  • Jenny Patzlaff, UWEBC
  • Rome Rauter, WEDC

Your Board is hard at work planning programming for this year and is excited that we are again hosting events in person at the Fluno Center in Madison, Wisconsin.  I encourage all of you to take full advantage of our luncheons which offer quality programming, delicious food and in-person networking with significant benefits which cannot be realized in a webinar. 

Our January and February in person events were well attended and we hope to build on that attendance at future events.  Speaking of future events, our March Program, Ukraine – Post Conflict Economic Development taking place March 14, 2023, will offer a timely presentation on the latest economic development opportunities in Ukraine.  To learn more and register, visit our website.

Thank you for your continued support and participation in MITA. I would love to hear from you with feedback, questions and suggestions.  My and the Board’s goal is to bring maximum value to you and your organizations as you navigate the field of international trade.  I look forward to seeing you at an upcoming event!


Carla Kutsche

President, Madison International Trade Association

Section 301 Tariffs on Chinese-Origin Goods: 4 Years In

Overall, most trade analysts agree that the Section 301 tariffs have not succeeded in decoupling the U.S. and Chinese economies. Rather, they have highlighted some industries and sectors where the U.S. is still heavily reliant on China and where other countries and domestic sources may not be able to meet U.S. demand.

In 2017, the U.S. implemented punitive tariffs on products of Chinese origin following an investigation under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974. These tariffs were implemented beginning in 2018 and 2019 through a series of lists covering over $350 billion worth of goods. As the United States Trade Representative (“USTR”) continues its statutorily required four-year review of the effectiveness of these tariff measures, it initiated a request for comments and issued a stakeholder questionnaire to examine the effectiveness of the tariffs in achieving the objectives of the original investigation. USTR also requested input on other actions that could be taken to address trade with China and the effects of the tariffs on the United States economy, including businesses and consumers. However, according to the Peterson Institute for International Economics’ article Four years into the trade war, are the US and China decoupling?, trade trends four years after implementation seem to reveal that the U.S. may be more reliant on China than was originally anticipated.

Though U.S. imports of Chinese products subject to these tariffs sharply declined in 2018 shortly after implementation, trade activity since then has continued to rise. China is currently the source of 18% of total U.S. imports. This upward trend, and continued reliance on China, is likely due to importers finding practical means of relief, such as seeking exclusions from these tariffs for their imported products and implementing numerous duty mitigation strategies, such as tariff engineering, FTZs and drawback, to help offset some of the increased cost of procurement from China. Further, some importers are stuck paying these additional tariffs because sources of their goods outside of China are not available or not viable.

While U.S. imports of Chinese products subject to Section 301 tariffs were drastically reduced, U.S. imports of Chinese products that were not subject to these tariffs surged. This development is clearly seen in the import data of laptops, monitors, video game consoles, and smart phones, all consumer goods which have been spared. Throughout the Covid 19 pandemic, China remained a consistent source of these items, suggesting the U.S. is, and will remain, heavily reliant on China.

Many other countries were able to fill gaps in supply left by decreased imports from China. U.S. imports from the rest of world are 38% higher than before the tariffs were put in place; however, these other economies were not always able to meet the growing U.S. demand. This trend is evident when you look at the import activity of semiconductors. While import volumes from China have fallen from 47% to 39%, volumes from the rest of world have only grown by 5%. This is due to China’s ability to produce “legacy” chips for low profit margins while competitors in other countries did not have much interest in switching to these less profitable products.

Overall, most trade analysts agree that the Section 301 tariffs have not succeeded in decoupling the U.S. and Chinese economies. Rather, they have highlighted some industries and sectors where the U.S. is still heavily reliant on China and where other countries and domestic sources may not be able to meet U.S. demand. The current administration has largely continued the trade policy with China put in place by the prior administration and has not indicated that the tariffs will be removed or altered in the near future. Meanwhile, the USTR sought additional insight and data from stakeholders to better understand the broader economic and industry specific impacts of these tariffs. While U.S. importers must continue to navigate the global procurement landscape with these tariffs in play, the USTR’s analysis may provide a central opportunity to understand the effects of the tariffs to US operations and perhaps shape the direction of any potential changes to U.S.-China trade policy.

Supply Chain Updates from M.E. Dey & Co.

Each week, M.E. Dey shares important stories related to trade and the supply chain. Here are the headlines…

How the Russia-Ukraine war is worsening shipping snarls and pushing up freight rates (CNBC)‘Prepare for Turmoil’: China’s virus lockdowns ramp up supply-chain risks (SCMP)FMC Meeting Scheduled for March 16th Discussing Enforcement Activities (FMC)Weekly Supply Chain Disruption Roundup (NCBFAA)
Be Sure to Monitor Tariff Treatment of Russian Imports Staged or En Route for Transport and Entry into the U.S. (via NCBFAA) 

With the recent announcement that the U.S. will revoke Russia’s Most Favored Nation Duty Status, NCBFAA urges its members to monitor Customs and Border Protection’s CSMS and other trade-facing announcements as to when goods originating from Russia for U.S. consumption will be subject to exponentially higher column two duty rates. While such tariff rate changes typically track the date of entry for consumption or withdrawal from warehouse, it is possible that they may track the date of export from Russia, in this latter case where goods already exported, but not yet entered, may not carry the higher duty rates.
China Tariff Refund Litigation Still Open to Importers (via ST&R)

The U.S. has assessed additional tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars worth of Chinese goods over the years pursuant to Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974. Almost all previous exclusions have expired, reinstatements have been slow, and the Biden administration has given no indication of any intent to remove or revise the tariffs.

Litigation currently before the Court of International Trade, first filed in 2020, and since joined by thousands of importers, is continuing to challenge the Section 301 tariffs on List 3 and 4A goods from China. Importers can still preserve their rights to possible refunds of these tariffs by joining the case.

Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg, P.A. (ST&R) can assist in helping you file a claim by contacting attorneys Larry Ordet, Lenny Feldman, Rob DeCamp, or David Cohen at
Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach Reconsidering Dwell Fee on March 18th (via NCBFAA)

The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have continued to postpone their “Container Dwell Fee,” and said they will reconsider its possible imposition on Feb. 25. 

The executive directors of both ports will reassess fee implementation after monitoring data over the next week. Fee implementation has been postponed by both ports since it was announced on Oct. 25, but it remains a threat to the industry. Under the temporary policy approved Oct. 29 by the Harbor Commissions of both ports, ocean carriers can be charged for each import container that falls into one of two categories: In the case of containers scheduled to move by truck, ocean carriers could be charged for every container dwelling nine days or more. For containers moving by rail, ocean carriers could be charged if a container has dwelled for six days or more. The fee has been set at $100 per container, increasing in $100 increments per container per day of excess dwell time beyond the prescribed period.

Thinking about joining MITA? Let Beth from Milwaukee Tool tell you why she joined this year

In this Spotlight story you’ll hear from Beth Amestica, Trade Compliance Analyst with Milwaukee Tool.  As a new member, we talked to Beth about why she joined MITA and what she’s already gained from her membership.  Read on to hear what she has to say.

Why did you decide to join MITA?
A friend, who has been a member of MITA, invited me to join a webinar series back in February of 2021. I was so impressed with the quality of the programming:  from the moderators, to the seasoned and well-experienced speakers and panelists, to the relevant and impactful content. I made a decision that day that this is something that I can’t afford to miss and that becoming a member will avail me of such great programming and much more.
What value has MITA provided to you since you have become a member?
Since I’ve been a member, I was able to join MITA’s webinars and hear from top-notch speakers and panelists. I learned from their expertise and experiences in trade compliance, logistics, supply chain, and trade regulations, which I find highly valuable being new to this industry. My network has also grown immensely.  I’ve had the opportunity to meet great leaders and key players from the biggest organizations as well as from promising young companies in Wisconsin.
What benefits do you find the most valuable?
It’s absolutely a true total package! The benefits I am receiving as a member of this prestigious organization is invaluable.
How has being part of MITA impacted you personally and professionally?
I have only been in the industry for a couple of years and what I have learned from each webinar, from each roundtable discussion, and from each member of this organization has accelerated my growth professionally as I navigate through the world of trade compliance.  Being a member has amplified my self-confidence as I surround myself with the sharpest and most knowledgeable people in this industry.

MITA’s Annual Social at Trek Headquarters

After two years of hiatus due to the pandemic, MITA held it’s annual social event at Trek’s facility in their beautiful, newly designed atrium. With over 50 people in attendance, the afternoon was filled with networking, hospitality, and a private tour of Trek’s operations. The event provided an opportunity to catch up with old friends and make a few new friends along the way.

A special thank you to our event co-sponsors, Trek Bicycle and Great Dane Pub & Brewing!

Talking Trade with guest Jay Nash

Jay Nash, President of MITA and principal of Nash Global Trade Services, was a recent guest on WisBusiness’s Talking Trade podcast.  Ian Coxhead from UW Madison and Sandi Segal, President of M.E. Dey, talk with Jay on the hot topic of Export Controls and why they’re important.  Gain insight on US export controls, the increased utilization of controls by foreign markets and economies, and how they no longer just apply to physical products. To view the video podcast, go to:

Meet MITA’s September Event Speaker, Dr. William Hauptman, Medical Director at International SOS

International SOS is in the business of saving lives and protecting global workforces from health and security threats. We deliver customized health and security risk management as well as well-being solutions to fuel growth and productivity around the world.

When the global coronavirus pandemic hit in March 2020, business travel tumbled and organizations rapidly pulled back their people, closed their offices and went virtual. International SOS quickly pivoted to programs that provide the same benefits to travelers but for domestic employees as well.

MITA interviewed Dr. William Hauptman to learn what he and International SOS have done to supporting their clients to normal operations and future travels. 

MITA:  How are current events affecting your business and international trade?

International SOS:

Right now, our clients remain primarily concerned with the global COVID-19 pandemic. We continue to address their challenges and help them navigate through this uncertain time by keeping them up to date on the latest news, information, and travel restrictions. On top of that, we are supporting their return to normal operations and future travels. 

MITA:  What have been your biggest challenges over the past year and how are you handling them?

International SOS:

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the world as we know it, bringing a laser-focus to the fact that employees are an organization’s biggest asset. At International SOS we assist our clients in meeting their Duty of Care for their employees and the past year has created some additional challenges in assisting in even routine cases. While many businesses were unprepared for this pandemic, International SOS has vast experience in assisting during pandemics (SARS, Ebola, zika, etc.). Additionally, our medical, security, and global team has always ensured that we have network providers to be able to set up and help our clients during a crisis, even on a massive scale as we have seen over the past year.

For example, prior to COVID-19 most medical evacuations were done to the closest center for medical excellence, while today we typically have to bring a traveler or expatriate assignee back to their home country. That often means a longer flight, more legs, additional crews, paperwork and logistics. Additionally, we need to coordinate isolation chambers, proper PPE, receiving care, and back-up plans that are much more complex than they were in the past.

In the wake of COVID-19 international business travel dropped off; however, we have seen a steady rise in cases over the past 12 months due to increased health and security threats. There is no longer a “routine” business trip and we have seen a 10-fold increase utilization of our services from clients. In 2020 we received over 4 million assistance calls. We assisted with over 73,000 COVID-19 related cases, performed 246 air ambulance movements for COVID-19 patients & 631 for other patients. We operated 32 charter flights with 2,000 passengers.

Our clients came to us with new requests daily and our unique business model allowed us to respond quickly. We augmented our assistance network with 1,108 COVID-19 testing facilities across 135 countries. Through 1,100 health & security consulting engagements we provided bespoke advice on how to address health & security challenges and how to keep clients’ workforce productive.

MITA:  What motivated you to become a sponsor of our Sept event?

International SOS:

International SOS has been a constant supporter of education and giving industry leaders the tools they need to do business, especially during challenging times. We enjoy sharing our medical and security expertise with members of groups like Madison Trade Association.

MITA:  What is one thing (something) you would like people to know about your company? Or what is something unique that people wouldn’t normally know about your company?

International SOS:

International SOS is known for helping clients abroad, but we are also involved in helping numerous clients’ domestic employees.

During last year’s California wildfires International SOS supported clients by locating food, water and temporary housing for workers and their families who were affected.

Additionally, during the ice storm and power outages in Texas in February International SOS fielded requests for assistance that included receipt, coordination and delivery of food, water, emergency supplies; hotel reservations and ground transportation as well as coordination with clients on the identification and manner of distribution to individuals and locations. International SOS also provided advice on personal resilience measures, including how to stay healthy and safe during prolonged power outages in extreme cold weather, and security guidance on transportation and lodging.

Support of clients included assistance of 467 personnel and 6 animals supported, 12 requests for assistance specific to Texas (ie food, water, supplies) and same day and next-day missions that delivered to central points of distribution and/or individual households as requested.