U.S. Foreign-Trade Zones: Background and Issues for Congress [November 12, 2013]   [open pdf - 793KB]

"U.S. foreign-trade zones (FTZs) are geographic areas declared to be outside the normal customs territory of the United States. This means that, for foreign merchandise entering FTZs and reexported as different products, customs procedures are streamlined and tariffs do not apply. For products intended for U.S. consumption, full customs procedures are applied and duties are payable when they exit the FTZ. In 1934, in the midst of the Great Depression, Congress passed the U.S. Foreign-Trade Zones Act. It was designed to expedite and encourage international trade while promoting domestic activity and investment. The U.S. FTZ program offers a variety of customs benefits to businesses which combine foreign and domestic merchandise in FTZs. Similar types of 'zones' exist in 135 countries, employing worldwide, about 66 million workers. Though some aspects differ, all have streamlined customs procedures and no duties applicable on components and raw materials combined in zones and then exported. Use of the zones can facilitate cooperative international production for a substantial share of the global supply chain."

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CRS Report for Congress, R42686
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