Import Data Issue

Not a New OneI read with interest your recent editorial regarding trade statistics and the problems involved in their timeliness. (JofC, Feb. 2) The issue of import trade statistics is not a new one. The figures have been distorted for years.

Until a few years ago, import statistics were reported on an f.o.b. basis while the rest of the world used c.i.f. statistics. Customs and the Commerce Department devised a procedure whereby the importer would compute the c.i.f. data on the customs entry notwithstanding the fact that duties are paid on f.o.b. values.

The statistics themselves are submitted by the customs import specialist to the Commerce Department by means of a copy of the customs entry and, although the report should be made on the final classification determined by customs, I doubt whether this is normally done. Usually the statistics would be submitted based on the estimated classification of the importer, which may or may not be right. Customs has mandated that the statistics be transmitted promptly so it must be assumed that import specialists would act accordingly.

Furthermore, Commerce and customs have never seen eye to eye in whatever they were involved. Customs has always treated statistics as a stepchild, claiming that its primary responsibility was the collection of duty, protection of the revenue and the interdiction of contraband. Supplying trade statistics must necessarily take a back seat.

With the recent development of customs' ACS system there should be an improvement provided the correct data are given electronically. And the Commerce Department's acquiescence in giving customs two additional weeks to submit the data should make the figures more reliable.

The 10-day grace period importers have to file import declarations is a necessary time lapse if the government wants accurate information. To eliminate it would see cargo backed up at every port of entry.

M. Sigmund Shapiro President Samuels Shapiro & Co. Baltimore, Md.

Corrupt Practices Act

Hurts Exporters

Your president and publisher, Don C. Becker, wrote an excellent article, ''The First Step: 'Think Exports' " (JofC, Dec. 15). His thoughts and suggestions take their place among thousands of others who have their own idea of what has gone wrong with America's international trade and what should be done about it.

I am unaware of anything being written or spoken with reference to the need to repeal the naive and ill-considered Corrupt Practices Act pushed through Congress by the now deceased Senator Frank Church. When this act was passed, our major overseas competitors thought they had died and gone to heaven. While I take no issue with the high moral purpose the act was supposed to serve, it is simply not in the cards to think it will encourage the rest of the world to act in a like manner. The passage of this act worked only to the great advantage of our competitors and to the great disadvantage of our American exporters.

For several millenia throughout the rest of the world, business transactions were and are not, considered complete without the buyer being given some form of personal incentive to "close the deal." The incentive takes the form of money, substantial gifts, special privileges and rebates. This is the norm. On the other hand, the act sends our businessmen to jail or imposes heavy fines if they tried to compete in the real world as it is and not as we would prefer it to be.

For six years, President Reagan has been preaching the theme of getting the government disengaged from the private sector to let them compete in the open marketplace on their own. He speaks of "free trade," "fair trade" and a "level playing field." And yet, American ex porters are still shackled by this onerous act while our foreign competitors walk off with what could and should be our share of the world's trade.

Kingdon B. Dietz Laguna Niguel, Calif.