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'Made in Israel': Rise in U.S. Complaints Over 'Mislabeled' Exports From Settlements

U.S. customs draws distinction between products actually 'Made in Israel' and those from West Bank settlements.

The United States Department of the Treasury is reporting an increase in allegations that merchandise produced in West Bank Jewish settlements is being imported into the U.S. without the proper country of origin markings, in contradiction to U.S customs regulations.

Each year the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency receives between 800 and 1,000 complaints regarding the import of items from around the world into the country. Recently, the CBP confirmed, there has been a growing number of complaints about products ostensibly manufactured in the settlements but exported under a different label. The CBP declined to say whether it has contacted the Israeli exporters or begun any proceedings against them.

In response to a question by Haaretz, the CBP spokeswoman confirmed the guidelines. "Marking items produced in the West Bank or Gaza Strip as 'Made in Israel,' 'Israel,' 'Occupied Territories-Israel,' or words of similar meaning, and later exporting those items to the U.S., is contrary to the noted Treasury decisions," she said.

She added that when it comes to items imported from East Jerusalem or the Golan Heights, the customs service has no special instructions, and declined to say whether new guidelines regarding those areas are anticipated. The CBP also confirmed that when required, it generally turns to the State Department for guidance on the issue.

Last year, shortly after the European Union's decision ordering separate labels for items from the settlements, the CBP sent updated instructions to importers, but these did not constitute a change in U.S. policy.

The CBP spokeswoman also declined to say whether any punitive measures have been taken against violators of the labeling rule. 

“CBP does not comment on specific investigations or enforcement actions related to alleged infractions of Customs law received through our e-Allegations online portal," she said. "In general, however, CBP receives between 800 to 1,000 wide-ranging e-Allegation submissions from the public each year. There has been no change in policy or practice in how CBP responds to allegations of trade violations. Each allegation receives a thorough analysis and enforcement actions are recommended, if warranted."

Since 1995, tax regulations require that products from the settlements be marked as originating in "West Bank and Gaza," "West Bank/Gaza Strip," "West Bank/Gaza," "West Bank and Gaza Strip," "West Bank," "Gaza," or "Gaza Strip." 

The CBP published a clarification two years later, explaining that the regulations were changed following a 1994 request by the State Department, after Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization signed the Declaration of Principles as part of the Oslo Accords in 1993.

In 2015, the EU adopted legislation that requires the labeling of all goods outside of Israel's 1967 borders as coming from the West Bank, Gaza or the Golan Heights. In addition, products made by Israelis in West Bank settlements will be labeled as such under the legislation.

Uri Blau

read more: http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.762600

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