Customs and Border Protection Meets the 21st Century: Highlighting U.S. Initiatives to Modernize International Trade at Our Borders

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has been in the process of transforming and modernizing its trade initiatives for the 21st century with stated goals of seeking “to improve cargo security while increasing trade competitiveness” by means of “fully aggregating risk management.”[1]  This goal seems vague, but essentially, CBP is making efforts to consolidate trade processing at our borders.  Some of its efforts include implementing the Automated Customs Environment, where master trade data for importer accounts will be stored and accessed across accounts; Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT); Centers of Excellence and Expertise; Importer Self-Assessment (“ISA”), among other programs.  CBP has provided a vast amount of information on its trade transformation initiatives on its website at http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/trade/trade_transformation/, but the following will give some insight into some of the most recent developments currently underway at our borders:

Automated Customs Environment (“ACE”) and Simplified Entry

Almost eleven years ago, CBP established ACE as an on-line tool to modernize, automate, streamline, and consolidate commercial trade processes connected with border security.[2]  As ACE continues to expand, much like any government program tends to do, the trade community will hopefully see positive benefits from CBP’s consolidation efforts.

The most recent development in CBP’s rollout of the ACE system is its “Simplified Entry” program, which segregates filing of transportation information from that of entry information.  This program allows entry documents to be filed earlier, and the documents require much less data than the current requirements.[3]  Only 3 ports and 9 companies were chosen by CBP to participate in the pilot program; however, CBP announced last week that the pilot program has been a success.  CBP has stated it will continue to evaluate the current program in the next 60-90 days[4]; then it will inform the trade community of the program’s expansion via notice in the federal register[5].

Expanded Role of the Broker

 

Another discussion of change currently taking place in the trade community surrounds likely expansion of the role of Customs brokers. CBP is presenting webinars throughout this summer (June through September 2012) outlining some of the issues and suggested modifications to the broker regulations in an effort to inform as many members of the trade community as possible of the potential future of the role of Customs brokers.  CBP is also meeting with local and regional broker associations in hopes of learning more about the actual issues that should be addressed with regard to expanding the role of brokers.  The webinars cover topics such as the rewrite of the broker regulations (19 C.F.R. part 111); establishing “bona fides”; Broker continuing education, applications, licensing, apprenticeships, and permitting; Broker penalties, etc.[6]

CBP has highlighted five (5) major proposals regarding the Role of the Broker:

  1. Expanded Role
    1. Pre-certification of C-TPAT applicants
    2. Pre-application support for ISA applicants
    3. Broker Responsibilities
      1. Requirements for bona fides (Broker to obtain evidence)
      2. Importer POA must be sent directly to Broker
      3. Customs business conducted in U.S. territory
      4. Professionalism
        1. Apprenticeship experience for broker permitting
        2. Continuing education to maintain active license
        3. Modernization
          1. Automatic annual reporting (replacing the triennial)
          2. Employee data upload into ACE
          3. Continuing education reporting
          4. Penalty Regime
            1. Allow for immediate suspension of license pending review of the case with due process
            2. Focus on bad actor’s license rather than filer code remediation[7]

The trade transformation initiatives have been ongoing since 2001 and will continue to grow in the coming years.  As they do, we can only hope that these changes will result in CBP’s meeting the lofty goals it has set for itself and the trade community.

For more information on these and other trade initiatives visit www.cbp.gov.  You can also call our offices to discuss how your business might benefit from these changes and how to take advantage of the new programs.  We are available via phone at (800) 583-0250 or via email at nmooney@customscourt.com or smorrison@customscourt.com.

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