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About Foreign-Trade Zones and Contact Info

An Introduction to Foreign-Trade Zones

Foreign-Trade Zones (FTZ) are secure areas under U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) supervision that are generally considered outside CBP territory upon activation. Located in or near CBP ports of entry, they are the United States' version of what are known internationally as free-trade zones.

Authority for establishing these facilities is granted by the Foreign-Trade Zones Board under the Foreign-Trade Zones Act of 1934, as amended (19 U.S.C. 81a-81u). The Foreign-Trade Zones Act is administered through two sets of regulations, the FTZ Regulations (15 CFR Part 400) and CBP Regulations (19 CFR Part 146).

Foreign and domestic merchandise may be moved into zones for operations, not otherwise prohibited by law, including storage, exhibition, assembly, manufacturing, and processing. All zone activity is subject to public interest review. Foreign-trade zone sites are subject to the laws and regulations of the United States as well as those of the states and communities in which they are located.

Under zone procedures, the usual formal CBP entry procedures and payments of duties are not required on the foreign merchandise unless and until it enters CBP territory for domestic consumption, at which point the importer generally has the choice of paying duties at the rate of either the original foreign materials or the finished product. Domestic goods moved into the zone for export may be considered exported upon admission to the zone for purposes of excise tax rebates and drawback.

Qualified public or private corporations that may operate the facilities themselves or contract for the operation sponsors foreign-trade zones. The operations are conducted on a public utility basis, with published rates. A typical general-purpose zone provides leasable storage/distribution space to users in general warehouse-type buildings with access to various modes of transportation. Many zone projects include an industrial park site with lots on which zone users can construct their own facilities.

Subzones are normally private plant sites authorized by the Board and sponsored by a grantee for operations that usually cannot be accommodated within an existing general-purpose zone.

The Advantages of Using a Foreign-Trade Zone

CBP duty and federal excise tax, if applicable, are paid when the merchandise is transferred from the zone for consumption.

While in the zone, merchandise is not subject to U.S. duty or excise tax. Certain tangible personal property is generally exempt from state and local ad valorem taxes.

Goods may be exported from the zone free of duty and excise tax.

CBP security requirements provide protection against theft.

Merchandise may remain in a zone indefinitely, whether or not subject to duty.

The rate of duty and tax on the merchandise admitted to a zone may change as a result of operations conducted within the zone. Therefore, the zone user who plans to enter the merchandise for consumption to CBP territory may normally elect to pay either the duty rate applicable on the foreign material placed in the zone or the duty rate applicable on the finished article transferred from the zone whichever is to his advantage.

Merchandise imported under bond may be admitted to a FTZ for the purpose of satisfying a legal requirement of exporting the merchandise. For instance, merchandise may be admitted into a zone to satisfy any exportation requirement of the Tariff Act of 1930, or an exportation requirement of any other Federal law (and many state laws) insofar as the agency charged with its enforcement deems it so.

Establishing a Foreign-Trade Zone

The Foreign-Trade Zones Act of 1934 created a Foreign-Trade Zones Board to review and approve applications to establish, operate, and maintain foreign-trade zones. The Board may approve any zone or subzone which it deems necessary to serve adequately "the public interest".

The Board also regulates the administration of foreign-trade zones and the rates charged by zone "grantees".

CBP must approve activation of the zone before any merchandise is admitted under the Foreign-Trade Zones Act.

It is the intent of the U.S. foreign-trade zone program to stimulate economic growth and development in the United States. In an expanding global marketplace there is increased competition among nations for jobs, industry and capital. The FTZ program was designed to promote American competitiveness by encouraging companies to maintain and expand their operations in the United States.

The FTZ program encourages U.S.-based operations by removing certain disincentives associated with manufacturing in the United States. The duty on a product manufactured abroad and imported into the U.S. is assessed on the finished product rather than on its individual parts, materials, or components. The U.S. based manufacturer finds itself at a disadvantage compared with its foreign competitor when it must pay a higher rate on parts, materials, or components imported for use in a manufacturing process. The FTZ program corrects this imbalance by treating products made in the zone, for the purpose of tariff assessment, as if it were manufactured abroad. At the same time, this country benefits because the zone manufacturer uses U.S. labor, services, and inputs.

Role of CBP

CBP is responsible for the transfer of merchandise into and out of the FTZ and for matters involving the collection of revenue. The Office of Regulations and Rulings at CBP Headquarters provides legal interpretations of the applicable statute, CBP Regulations and procedures.

The Port Director of CBP, in whose port a zone is located, is charged with overseeing zone activity as the local representative of the Foreign-Trade Zones Board. He or she controls the admission of merchandise into the zone, the handling and disposition of merchandise in the zone, and the removal of merchandise from the zone. In addition to the Foreign-Trade Zones Act, he or she enforces all laws normally enforced by CBP that are relevant to foreign-trade zones.

Zones are supervised by FTZ Coordinators (i.e., CBP Officers, Import Specialists, Entry Specialists or Agricultural Specialists, etc.) through compliance reviews and visits; the security of the zone must meet certain requirements.

What may be placed in zones

Any foreign or domestic merchandise not prohibited by law or other exception listed below, whether dutiable or not, may be taken into a foreign-trade zone.

Merchandise, which lawfully cannot be imported into the United States, is prohibited without exception. Furthermore, placing merchandise subject to a quota into a zone cannot circumvent quota on the imported merchandise.

On the other hand, merchandise for which a quota is filled or for which a quota on entry is established, may be placed into a zone until the quota opens or is removed since foreign-trade zones are considered outside CBP territory for entry purposes. Such products, with the exception of certain textiles (19 CFR 146.63(d)), may be manipulated or manufactured while in the zone into a product not subject to quota.

Some Federal agencies regulate storage and handling in the United States of certain types of merchandise, such as explosives. Depending on the nature of the requirements and the particular characteristics of the zone facility, such merchandise may be excluded. Moreover, agencies, which license importers or issue importation permits may block admissions to a zone, which are not properly licensed or permitted.

The Foreign-Trade Zones Board may exclude from a zone any merchandise that is in its judgment detrimental to the public interest, health, or safety. The Board may place restrictions on certain types of merchandise, which would limit the zone status allowed, the kind of operation on the merchandise in a zone, the entry of the merchandise into the commerce, or similar transactions or activities.

What may be done in zones

The Foreign-Trade Zones Board may exclude from a zone any merchandise that is in its judgment detrimental to the public interest, health, or safety. The Board may place restrictions on certain types of merchandise, which would limit the zone status allowed, the kind of operation on the merchandise in a zone, the entry of the merchandise into the commerce, or similar transactions or activities.

Many products subject to an internal revenue tax may not be manufactured in a zone. These products include alcoholic beverages, products containing alcoholic beverages except domestic denatures distilled spirits, perfumes containing alcohol, tobacco products, firearms, and sugar. In addition, the manufacture of clock and watch movements is not permitted in a zone.

No retail trade of foreign merchandise may be conducted in a FTZ. However, foreign and domestic merchandise may be stored, examined, sampled, and exhibited in a zone.

Entering merchandise from a zone into the United States for consumption

The entry, classification, and appraisement of merchandise transferred from a foreign-trade zone is affected by the "status" of the merchandise.

Privileged foreign status

Prior to any manipulation or manufacture, which would change its tariff classification, an importer may apply to the Port Director to have imported merchandise in the zone given privileged foreign status. The merchandise is classified and appraised and duties and taxes are determined as of the date the application is filed. When such merchandise is transferred from the zone for U.S. consumption, either in its original state or after manipulation or manufacture the applicable duties and taxes would be paid based on the rate established when privileged foreign status was granted.

Zone restricted status

Merchandise transferred to a zone from CBP territory for storage or for the purpose of satisfying a legal requirement for exportation or destruction is considered exported and cannot be returned to CBP territory for consumption unless the Foreign-Trade Zones Board rules that it's return is in the public interest. The status of merchandise transferred to a zone under these circumstances is "zone restricted." Zone restricted merchandise may not be manipulated, except to destroy it, or manufactured in a zone. As in the case of privileged foreign status, the zone user must apply for zone restricted status on the appropriate CBP form.

Nonprivileged foreign status

Merchandise composed entirely of or derived entirely of nonprivileged merchandise are appraised and classified in its condition at the time of transfer into CBP territory for consumption or for CBP bonded warehousing. Waste recovered from privileged foreign merchandise is assigned NPF status. Domestic merchandise, which has lost its identity, will be assigned NPF status. NPF may be changed to PF prior to manipulation or manufacture.

Domestic status

Domestic status, which may be approved upon application to the Port Director, is available for merchandise which is (a) the growth, product, or manufacture of the United States on which all internal revenue taxes, if applicable, have been paid, (b) previously imported merchandise on which all internal revenue taxes have been paid, or (c) merchandise previously admitted free of duty. Domestic merchandise may be admitted to a zone without a CBP permit, and also removed from a zone without a CBP permit if it has not been combined with any other merchandise of any other status.

Foreign-Trade Zone Manual

Foreign-Trade Zone Frequently Asked Questions

All CBP Ports of Entry Accepting Electronic 214 Admissions

Getting Started with CBP Automated Systems

FTZ Automation Checklist

Where is additional information available?

The Executive Secretariat of the Board is located at:
U.S. Department of Commerce
Foreign-Trade Zones Board
1401 Constitution Avenue, NW, Room 2111
Washington, D.C. 20230
Main Phone: (202) 482-2862

Foreign-Trade Zones Board

CBP Regulations, 19 CFR Part 146, govern the transfer of merchandise to and from foreign-trade zones. For answers to specific questions contact the Port Director of the CBP port where the zone is located or CBP Headquarters at:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection
Office of Field Operations
Cargo and Conveyance Security
1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Room 5.2C

Washington, D.C. 20229

Or email: Cargo Control.