USA-IT Urges Congress to Tackle Illegal Trade

Coalition of public and private security experts presents policy recommendations to Members of Congress to help combat rising tide of black-market trade
Published: Dec. 1, 2021 at 2:00 PM CST

WASHINGTON, Dec. 1, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, a coalition of private and public experts , joined together as  United to Safeguard America from Illegal Trade (USA-IT), hosted a first-of-its-kind policy summit in Washington, D.C., to advocate that Congress embrace new policies that are urgently needed to combat the growing threats posed by illegal trade—including counterfeiting, smuggling, organized retail theft, and drug and human trafficking.

During the summit, Senators Kyrsten Sinema (D-Az.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) delivered keynote speeches. "Serving in the Senate, I see the loopholes in our laws and the gaps in our policies that make it easy for criminal and terrorist networks to trade in illicit goods. And as a medical doctor, I have seen firsthand how the opioid crisis has taken the lives of 100,000 Americans during the pandemic, destroying families across this country," said Sen. Bill Cassidy. "We need to solve illicit trade to address all of the deadly symptoms it creates. This is not just an issue of national health—it is an issue of national security."

Cassidy continued, "What makes USA-IT important and unique is that it brings together stakeholders from different industries, different sectors, different regions and different backgrounds with the unifying purpose of combating illegal trade."

"Keeping America safe represents a constantly evolving challenge, and I'm eager to continue working with Senator Cassidy and colleagues on both sides of the aisle to plan for the future and further strengthen America's security and competitiveness. We will achieve these goals through bipartisan cooperation and coalitions, and you can count on me as a partner in the effort to stop illicit trade," said Sen. Kyrsten Sinema.

Additionally, coalition members held three panel discussions featuring subject matter experts from large and small companies, law enforcement, and policy experts to examine how illegal trade funds terrorism; new challenges confronting law enforcement; and the vital role public-private partnerships can play to reduce illegal trade.

USA-IT partners are presenting their policy recommendations to Members of Congress, which USA-IT believes can advance solutions that effectively curb the threat of illegal trade. These include:

  • Establishing a national framework against illegal trade and organized crime;
  • Addressing challenges posed by e-commerce;
  • Confronting the abuse of small parcels in contraband trade;
  • Disabling foreign Free-Trade Zones (FTZs) from promoting illegal trade; and
  • Disincentivizing illicit activities through stronger sanctions and penalties for criminal and corrupt actors

Launched in June 2021, USA-IT is working across 12 states facing critical illegal trade issues to empower local officials, law enforcement, and other leaders with new information and training programs and raising public awareness of the depth and severity of this crime. To date, USA-IT has brought together more than 60 national and state brand enforcement experts, law enforcement agencies, and leading business organizations dedicated to fighting illegal trade.

"Law enforcement recognizes that any weaknesses in our system are going to be seen as opportunities by criminals and terrorists. And we are certainly seeing some vulnerabilities in our systems right now due to the ongoing supply shortage," said USA-IT spokesman and former director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Matt Albence. "Illegal trade makes criminals rich and damages our economy, businesses, and our communities. Tackling it requires cooperation and public-private partnerships, making full use of existing expertise, information sharing, innovative solutions, and evolving technologies—and that is exactly what we're doing with USA-IT."

"Philip Morris International is proud to join together with such a diverse group of stakeholders from various industries and the public sector to expose the hidden costs and consequences of illegal trade," said Hernan Albamonte, head of Illicit Trade Prevention U.S. for Philip Morris International. "By working together and bringing this pervasive problem into lawmakers' focus, we can more effectively combat this tremendous threat to Americans' security and prosperity."

In 2019, counterfeit goods robbed the U.S. economy of $131 billion and 325,500 jobs—but it's ills seep deeper into the fabric of American society there. Criminals get rich from illegal trade by robbing revenues meant to provide essential services to Americans. Instead of helping taxpayers, money is diverted to fuel some of the world's most dangerous criminal enterprises. These groups exploit governments and citizens, manipulate financial systems, spur corruption, and cultivate instability and violence that threaten our communities.

Public actors, the private sector, and civil society alike all have a role to play. Only through cooperative efforts like USA-IT can we effectively ensure a safer, more secure, and more prosperous future.

For more information about USA-IT's efforts to combat illegal trade and to get involved, visit USAIT.org or email us at contact@USAIT.org.

For media requests, please email sam.dashiell@USAIT.org

About USA-IT
United to Safeguard America from Illegal Trade (USA-IT) is a public- and private-sector partnership designed to help protect American security and prosperity from black-market criminals.

Contacts:
Sam Dashiell
U.S. Communications, Philip Morris International
T. +1 (202) 480 1617
E.  sam.dashiell@USAIT.org

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SOURCE United to Safeguard America from Illegal Trade (USA-IT)

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