A Texas hard-surface importer faces interim measures from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) over possible evasion of the stiff tariffs on quartz-surface products from China.

The federal agency will continue an investigation of allegations made by U.S. producer Cambria Company LLC last December concerning crushed-glass slabs that actually fall under the quartz-surface tariff ruling.

The CBP ordered that import transactions after Feb. 1 that involve Houston-based Vivaldi Commercial LLC and Vivaldi Interiors LLC and the material in question remain open and possibly subject to additional duties and fines.

The May 10 CBP action came as part of Cambria’s continuing policy of identifying possible tariff evaders under the federal Enforce and Protect Act (EAPA).

The investigation involves material that substitutes fine-grained, silica-based glass powder for quartz sand in manufacturing hard-surface products. Cambria sought to include such products in early 2019 as part of its unfair-trade complaint against Chinese quartz surfaces.

The U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) agreed in June 2019 to place the glass-based materials under its order to assess duties of up to at least 293% on China-made quartz surfaces. However, the USITC also spelled out specific standards to exclude surfaces using larger-diameter bits of recycled glass.

In its complaint against Vivaldi, Cambria cited social-media entries in early summer 2019 involving the manufacturer in China, Xiamen Sunrise Stone Co., and comments on producing a new “glass” product to evade the upcoming quartz-surface duties.

The allegation also comments from a witness concerning the imports, although the public-record copy of the CBP action shows a large blank space; the witness statements are redacted.

Vivaldi previously contacted CBP in December 2018 seeking an import classification for the ECO Glass surface. Based on samples provided by Vivaldi, the CBP initially ruled the material being under the “Other articles of glass: Other” category.

However, the CBP conducted cargo inspections and laboratory analyses of ECO Glass shipments to Vivaldi earlier this year. The agency found some discrepancies in bills-of-lading and customs forms that also allude to quartz-surface classifications. (Xiamen Sunrise Stone is also a large producer of quartz surfaces with factories in China and Malaysia.)

What the CBP learned from the lab analyses can’t be discerned, as all data and conclusions are redacted from the public-record report.

CBP will continue its investigation during the next seven months to make any final determinations. In the interim, all shipments of the material in question to Vivaldi after Feb. 1 will have liquidation suspended, meaning that the importing process won’t be finalized and shipments could be subject to additional duties and fines.

“The industry should now know that U.S. Customs and Cambria are fully aware of the ways that importers are undermining the AD/CVD duties that were imposed to stop illegal trade violating U.S. trade law and level the playing field for American companies like Cambria,” noted Marty Davis, Cambria president/CEO, in a statement. “The enforcement actions that Customs has taken are just the tip of the iceberg, because we are bringing more evidence of evasion to the agency’s attention so that they can take additional enforcement action against these illegal evaders.”

See Slippery Rock Gazette archives, March 2019 (Debate on Chinese Quartz Duties / Tariffs Continues) for the origins of this Tariff and Unfair Practice legislation.