Government Shutdown Taking a Toll on Trade

Tuesday, 08 Oct 2013 11:13 AM

By Courtney Coren

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The government shutdown has brought trade to a near standstill in some cases, leaving companies unable to get authorization for imports and exports because of furloughed workers who have been sent home due to Congress' inability to overcome the budget impasse.

According to The Wall Street Journal, more than 90 percent of the Environmental Protection Agency staff is currently furloughed, leaving pesticide imports in limbo because importers can't get the approval needed to bring the products into the country.

The Journal also reports that technology companies are unable to get authorization from the Commerce Department to fill overseas orders, while steel imports are stuck in warehouses because of backed-up paperwork.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency has most of its personnel still working. But Marianne Rowden, president of the American Association of Exporters and Importers, told the Journal that more than 40 government agencies are involved in trade shipments, and 14 agencies have the authority to "release and hold" imports and exports before the CBP even enters the process.

"It's a mess," Rowden said.

The problem isn't just the lack of enough government workers on the job, but government websites normally used by companies to apply for authorization or to check compliance with necessary regulations have essentially been shut down as well.

For example, companies seeking information through the Commerce Department are now greeted with the following message:

"The Federal Government is currently shut down. This website was last updated on October 1, 2013 and will not be updated until it reopens; as such, information on it may not be up to date. Transactions submitted via this website might not be processed and we will not be able to respond to inquiries until after appropriations are enacted."

At CBP website, visitors are greeted with this: "Due the lapse in federal funding, this website will not be actively managed."

Beth Peterson, president of BPE Global, told the Journal she was abruptly cut off last Thursday when applying for export authorization for a client through the Bureau of Industry and Security website operated by the Commerce Department. She said the site shut down on her suddenly.

"This is the final quarter of the year," Peterson told the newspaper, emphasizing the financial urgency that some companies feel about being able to get their import and export applications approved expeditiously.

If companies "can't get authorization for their new products," she added, they "can't complete transactions. They're worried about revenue recognition. It impacts their stock, their profitability."

Related Stories:

Obama Grounded, Cancels Asian Trip During Shutdown

US Postpones Trade Negotiations With EU Due to Shutdown

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