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Vietnam seizes bikes bound for U.S. for alleged country of origin violation

BINH DUONG, Vietnam (BRAIN) — Vietnam customs officials have seized a shipment of 313 bikes that was bound for the U.S., charging that the exporter had improperly labeled the bikes as “Made in Vietnam” to avoid U.S. tariffs on Chinese bikes. 

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According to a report on a news website operated by the Vietnam customs department, the shipment was valued at $26,000 and was brought into Vietnam by E. Bicycle Co., Ltd., a company that operates in China and Vietnam. According to the officials, E. Bicycle Co., LTD. does final assembly in Vietnam but does not manufacture there. 

Photos on the site show customs officials standing next to bike boxes that are labeled Firth Sports, a California-based cruiser bike brand. The company did not respond to an email from BRAIN asking for comment on the story. 

Firth Sports sells bikes through Amazon, Kohl’s, and other outlets, using the Firmstrong brand on cruisers and the XDS brand on other bikes. 

The Vietnam customs site shows a close-up photo of a “Made in Vietnam” sticker on a cruiser frame. The bike boxes also say “Made in Vietnam.”

The seizure was made Oct. 21, the same day that the Vietnam Ministry of Finance announced that it was adopting new procedures to police imports and exports, centered around determining whether the products’ country of origin is correctly recorded. 

The department said E. Bicycle Co. made an initial declaration that the shipment was in a category that would not require physical inspection. However, the new procedures led to a physical inspection and inspectors discovered the incorrect labeling. 

The department made a record of administrative violations and temporarily seized the shipment for further investigation.

China-made cruiser bikes are currently subject to a 36% tariff, including a 25% tariff imposed by the Trump administration last year. Cruisers made in Vietnam would be subject to an 11% tariff. Several manufacturers have moved bike production from China to Vietnam in the last year to avoid the new tariffs. The European Union also has imposed anti-dumping duties on bikes and e-bikes made in China. In July the European Union signed a free trade agreement with Vietnam.

According to U.S. Customs records, the U.S. imported about 57,000 bikes, not counting e-bikes, from Vietnam in the 12-month period ending in June 2019. That’s up from about 7,700 units in the prior 12-month period.

On a much larger scale, on Tuesday Bloomberg reported that Vietnam customs officials seized $4.3 billion worth of China-made aluminum that it said was falsely labeled as coming from Vietnam. Most of the aluminum was bound for the U.S. 

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