Every month, under the flag of Operation Mega Flex, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) does an enhanced inspection of small parcels arriving, primarily, from China.
Over the course of 14 monthly “blitz operations,” a decidedly unlucky 13% of the Made-in-China packages inspected have contained a type of counterfeit product or other contraband that can defraud, harm, or even kill Americans.
Operation Mega Flex is a CBP initiative that began in June of 2019 as part of a broader Trump administration effort, also involving the White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy, to crack down on the dangerous flood of counterfeit goods pouring into America from China, often through the distribution networks of e-commerce platforms like Alibaba, Amazon, and eBay.
This “flood” is indeed a flood. Every single day, about 700,000 small Made-in-China parcels pour into America. About 68% of these parcels are handled by the United States Postal Service at ports of entry like New York’s JFK Airport, Chicago’s O’Hare, and LAX in California. The remainder of air parcels come into cities like Memphis, Cincinnati, and Louisville in facilities managed by private carriers like DHL, FedEx, and UPS.
If the data collected thus far from Operation Mega Flex accurately captures the scope of the Made-in-China contraband problem – and the data has been remarkably consistent over the 14 monthly blitz operations to date – here’s what it means: On a daily basis, nearly 90,000 Americans are being assaulted in one form or another through small parcel mail by unscrupulous Made-in-China exporters.
Just exactly what forms do these Chinese assaults take? As CBP has looked under the Made-in-China hood in the course of inspecting over 71,000 parcels, it has found four different categories of “discrepancies.”
On a daily basis, nearly 90,000 Americans are being assaulted in one form or another through small parcel mail by unscrupulous Made-in-China exporters.
For starters, about a third of the Made-in-China contraband is counterfeited. The Chinese knockoffs uncovered by CBP have included everything from Louis Vuitton bags, Ferragamo belts, Rolex watches, and Apple earbuds to fraudulent China Virus test kits and fake prescription drugs like Lipitor and Viagra. That’s not just a consumer rip off – fake medicines can outright kill you while defective electronics products can burn your house down.
A second major category uncovered by Operation Mega Flex is even more deadly. It consists of assorted drug paraphernalia along with deadly narcotics such as fentanyl, methamphetamine, and oxycodone.
In just one package seized this past March at the JFK facility, over 5,000 grams of the dangerously addictive opioid, hydrocodone, were uncovered—that’s more than 55,000 doses.
Then, of course, there are the various fake documents like driver’s licenses, passports, and police badges–the latest blitz operation last month seized several Department of Justice Special Agent badges that were remarkably realistic. And if you need a gun or a silencer or an automatic weapons converter, you can get that from Communist China too, courtesy of e-commerce platforms.
Finally, there are all manner of agricultural products that illegally enter the United States that have the potential to wreak great havoc with our food supply chains or our personal health. For example, when a deadly African swine fever wiped out over a million pigs, America’s own pork supply was threatened by shipments of potentially infected Chinese pork – the virus can live in raw meat for weeks and frozen meat for months.
More recently, we have seen an influx of unsolicited packages originating from China containing mislabeled seeds. As another example, in June of 2020, CBP specialists intercepted a Made-in-China package containing thirteen unsealed bags filled with vials of blood, plasma, and human urine, all believed to be infected with STDs and STIs such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, and hepatitis.
The Trump administration is strongly committed to putting an end to both the Made-in-China contraband inundating America through small parcels and the role that e-commerce platforms are playing in facilitating such illegal trafficking.
As Operation Mega Flex continues to gather data on these problems, and per the authorities of the presidential Executive Order “Ensuring Safe & Lawful E-Commerce for U.S. Consumers, Businesses, Government Supply Chains, and Intellectual Property Rights,” CBP will increasingly monitor, and if necessary begin to significantly restrict, the flow of Chinese packages into American households.
If e-commerce platforms like Alibaba, Amazon, and eBay fail to increase their scrutiny of China’s contraband trafficking and continue to refuse to accept their full and fair share of policing this dangerous problem, they will likewise be held accountable. American lives and livelihoods are both at stake, and the Trump administration will continue to do everything necessary to protect both.
Mark Morgan is the Commissioner of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Peter Navarro is the Assistant to the President for Trade and Manufacturing Policy.