The customs brokers have been and will continue to be a necessary part of CBP’s trade mission, but coming regulatory changes may require some “reinvention” within the industry, said Al Gina, a former head of CBP’s Office of International Trade. Similarly, CBP made some major adjustments during Gina’s time there due to new budgetary constraints, an issue that continues to loom over CBP as it works to develop both long and short-term initiatives, he said. Gina, who recently retired from the agency and is now a partner at CT Strategies, discussed a number of agency initiatives and his new work during a wide-ranging interview on Jan. 9.
Between efforts to rewrite customs broker regulations and the ongoing emphasis on virtual environments, like the Centers for Excellence and Expertise (CEEs), the customs broker industry will likely require some updates, but that should not be cause for concern, said Gina. “If the brokerage community of the past generated their revenue by doing” certain paperwork and if government agencies, not just CBP, make the move toward a paperless world, “one can say that without any kind of transformation or reinvention of themselves, ‘Yeah, people aren’t going to have to fill out any paperwork anymore because it’s all going to be automated,'” said Gina. But similar realities have not meant the end of other industries, such as the stock brokerage industry, he said.
“I think the brokerage community’s value will always be needed just because of their knowledge,” he said. ” I think the brokers are always going to be needed as the interlocutor between the import/export community and the regulatory agencies” no matter how successful programs like the CEEs, Simplified Entry and ACE are. The work 10 years from now may be “completely different” but the role will always be “vital,” he said.
The CBP work toward defining the “Role of the Broker” and what it will be in 2015 or 2020 is a critical undertaking for both CBP and brokers and the agency has been “very transparent with the broker community” in giving them what the CBP strategic vision is, said Gina. “I think my credibility would be at stake if I just painted it one rosy great working relationship environment,” he said. One ongoing challenge for CBP in dealing with the broker community is the occasional disconnect between regional broker groups, though it would be “naive to say everyone’s going to be completely aligned on everything,” he said. Gina credited the work of CBP’s Senior Advisor for Trade in the Office of Trade Relations Maria Luisa Boyce, who is often tasked with finding some agreement among industry.
– Tim Warren