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Miami Free Zone Corp. v. Foreign-Trade Zones Board

February 19, 1998

MIAMI FREE ZONE CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
FOREIGN-TRADE ZONES BOARD, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE AND THE UNITED STATES, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES, AND WYNWOOD COMMUNITY ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, INC. AND DADE FOREIGN TRADE ZONE, INCORPORATED, DEFENDANTS.



Appealed from: United States Court of International Trade Chief Judge Carman

Before Mayer, *fn1 * Chief Judge, Lourie and Clevenger, Circuit Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Clevenger, Circuit Judge.

United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

97-1207

MIAMI FREE ZONE CORPORATION, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

FOREIGN-TRADE ZONES BOARD, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE and THE UNITED STATES, Defendants-Appellees, and WYNWOOD COMMUNITY ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, INC., and DADE FOREIGN TRADE ZONE, INCORPORATED, Defendants.

Miami Free Zone Corp. (MFZ), which operates a foreign-trade zone in the Miami, Florida, Customs port of entry, appeals the judgments of the Court of International Trade in Miami Free Zone Corp. v. Foreign-Trade Zones Board, 914 F. Supp. 620 (Ct. Int'l Trade 1996) (Miami I), and Miami Free Zone Corp. v. Foreign-Trade Zones Board, 945 F. Supp. 273 (Ct. Int'l Trade 1996) (Miami II). In these decisions, the court affirmed the action of the Foreign-Trade Zones Board (Board) granting a foreign-trade zone in the Miami port of entry to Wynwood Community Economic Development Corp. (Wynwood). On appeal, MFZ contends that the process by which the Board granted the Wynwood zone violated MFZ's constitutional right to due process, and that the Board failed to comply with 19 U.S.C. § 81b(b) (1994), which governs whether the Board may grant an additional free-trade zone for a port of entry that already has at least one. Because the Board provided MFZ with constitutionally adequate process and complied with its statutory mandate, we affirm.

I.

A foreign-trade zone is a geographical area located adjacent to or in a port of entry into the United States in which imported merchandise may be manipulated and manufactured "without being subject to the customs laws of the United States." Foreign-Trade Zones Act of 1934, § 3, 19 U.S.C. § 81c (1994) [hereinafter Act]. See generally Armco Steel Corp. v. Stans, 431 F.2d 779, 781-82 (2d Cir. 1970). Foreign-trade zones are valuable, for example, because:

A company operating within zone can import foreign merchandise into the zone and manufacture finished merchandise therefrom. It can elect whether to pay duties on the foreign merchandise when it is imported into the zone, or on the finished merchandise when it is imported into U.S. customs territory for domestic consumption. The company can thus take advantage of any favorable differential between the rate of duty for the foreign merchandise and that for the finished merchandise.

Conoco, Inc. v. United States Foreign-Trade Zones Bd., 18 F.3d 1581, 1583 n.2 (Fed. Cir. 1994) (citation omitted).

Under 19 U.S.C. § 81b(a), the Board has the authority "to grant to corporations the privilege of establishing, operating, and maintaining foreign-trade zones." When a foreign-trade zone already exists within a port of entry, the Act provides that the Board may grant a foreign-trade zone "only if the Board finds that existing or authorized zones will not adequately serve the convenience of commerce." 19 U.S.C. § 81b(b).

II.

On October 17, 1990, Wynwood filed an application with the Board for a general-purpose foreign-trade zone in the Miami Customs port of entry, which is located in the City of Miami. The city donated a thirteen-acre site, which is two miles from the Miami seaport and falls within a state-designated enterprise-zone area. The Wynwood application received support from federal, state, and local elected officials. The notice of the application was published on October 26, 1990, at 55 Fed. Reg. 43,152. The Board appointed an Examiners Committee to report on the application and requested written comments from the public by December 14 of that year.

On that date, MFZ filed a comment, in which it objected to the application and requested a hearing. MFZ operates foreign-trade zone No. 32, which is located near the Miami International Airport and ten miles from the seaport. The Board had granted foreign-trade zone No. 32 to the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, which had contracted with MFZ to operate it. In March 1990, MFZ obtained an ...


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