CBP to Increase Focus on Exports

International Trade Today reported that, at the November 7, 2013 Coalition of New England Companies for Trade (CONECT) Northeast Cargo Symposium, CBP Acting Commissioner Thomas Winkowski stated that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection will focus more on exports as this “area represents a huge opportunity. If we're going to be competitive in the world market, we have to reduce costs in how we do business day in and day out." That means ensuring compliance not only with U.S. export requirements, but also with those in the importing country so that goods are not held up at the port overseas.

Winkowski stated that one of aspects of this effort is to have U.S. trusted trader programs recognized by other countries via mutual recognition agreements. “If countries recognize CBP trusted trader programs as ensuring compliance with their import regulations, U.S. exports could avoid being put in the same "import bucket" as goods from other countries.” That would mean fewer delays and less cost. CBP is currently developing a framework for a Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) export component, and has mutual recognition agreements with seven countries: New Zealand, Canada, Jordan, Japan, South Korea, the European Union, and Taiwan.

Another component of the effort that is already in place is building partnerships with other countries to expedite U.S. export clearance in foreign countries. Currently, CBP has an outbound preclearance process in place at Laredo Airport where Mexico customs officials clear U.S. export shipments before they cross border. Winkowski said that CBP has plans to expand this program to the Port of Otay Mesa in San Diego and the Port of Santa Teresa, New Mexico.

Winkowski also sought the support and input of the trade community in the World Customs Organization (WCO)-led international effort to harmonize customs procedures around the world, an effort in which CBP is participating. However, to ensure that the final agreement works for and benefits the U.S. trade community, it needs to get more involved at the international level from the very beginning of the negotiations. "I think at CBP we have strong partnerships around the world, but we don't have the trade community with us," said Winkowski. "We're going to start ... going to associations and bringing the trade with us overseas to begin that process of talking about standardization.”

Winkowski recognized that this effort is complicated by the fact that a multitude of agencies participate in handling of exports. In addition to overseas import requirements, CBP must also consider Census rules and licensing by the State and Commerce Departments, among others. However, Winkowski stated, that also presents an opportunity for CBP to address the industry’s biggest concern on the export side, which is the amount of paperwork involved in export transactions. CBP and the trade community have a “chance to come in and make a difference," by influencing the policies that are being considered, as well as the license requirements.