On October 17th, the Association of Women in International Trade (WIIT) and the Customs Lawyers Association (CLA) hosted a group of trade community members to hear from Susan Thomas, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Director of Trade Operations Division, Office of Field Operations, who has played a key role in developing CBP’s Centers of Excellence and Expertise (CEEs). CBP has 10 CEEs, based on import-product type, that operate virtually at major ports around the U.S. The CEEs represent a transition by CBP to process trade with national account management approach, rather than operating on a traditional port-by-port basis. This new approach allows CBP to focus its agency-wide expertise in a given industry to an importer in that product sector, regardless of which port they may be operating at in a consistent, uniform, predictable manner.
While the CEEs have been in existence since 2010, they represent a significant transition in operations that has required a great deal of bidirectional education between CBP and the trade community as they continue to be refined. CBP has gradually assigned millions of importer record numbers to the appropriate CEE, usually by their highest volume tariff number. CBP has also been conducting a series of meetings with the trade community to educate them on the new process, CEE staffing structure, and three divisions focusing on partnership, validation and compliance, and enforcement.
For global logistics and trade compliance professionals, 2022 has been the year of significant changes, and CBP is keeping us on our toes as secure trade becomes an even greater focus across companies and customs organizations worldwide. As a business, your goal is to keep goods moving seamlessly, which is why it’s more important now than ever to understand how changes to the program will affect operations across your enterprise.