The Port of Hueneme's bid to become a designated Foreign Trade Zone has received support from political and commercial allies, who testified before a federal trade official in a hearing held this week in Port Hueneme.
Port officials stressed during Tuesday's hearing the importance of obtaining Commerce Department approval. They said it could reduce costs for the port's customers and help attract new importers.
By establishing the port and the nearby area as a Foreign Trade Zone, importers have more flexibility in paying import duties. They said they could bring their goods to the zone and make alterations without paying the tariffs until goods are shipped to market.
For instance, an importer of foreign cars could bring a vehicle to the Port of Hueneme's Foreign Trade Zone, install U.S.-made stereo equipment in the car and defer the payment of duties until the vehicle is sent to the dealer.
"If we were a Foreign Trade Zone, importers would be able to bring their products here to the threshold of the market, and then decide when to cross it," said Kam Quarles, the port's assistant director.
The designation would also allow foreign goods to be shipped through the Port of Hueneme to other trade zones after improvements are added, but with no additional fees.
John J. Da Ponte Jr., executive secretary of the Foreign Trade Zones Board, conducted the session that was held at Port Hueneme City Hall. He received letters supporting the port's application from area politicians, including California's two U.S. senators--Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer.
Customers also supported the port's bid, saying they would be able to increase their activities at the port if the zone is established. "The Foreign Trade Zone actually provides a major incentive for the purchase and installation of (U.S.) components on our vehicles," said R. Peter Jung of BMW of North America, which imports BMW automobiles through the Port of Hueneme.
The Foreign Trade Zones Board will accept public comment on the proposal until Nov. 5 at the Department of Commerce, 14th and Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C., 20230.