The Colombian Federation of International Trade Logistics Agents (FITAC) held its 19th International Congress in Cartagena from November 1st-3rd. The event brought together various stakeholders within the international trade community, including Customs officials, importers, exporters, and port authorities. Various officials, including from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) were invited to discuss their perspectives on issues facing the trade community. CT Strategies’ Charles Bartoldus was invited to speak on challenges border officials and the trade community are facing due to the rapid growth of e-commerce, which is expected to reach over $4 trillion worldwide by 2020.
Mr. Bartoldus discussed how international e-commerce, while facilitating faster, easier transactions between consumers and suppliers, has presented challenges to customs officials . The ability for supplier and consumer to connect directly in a cross-border transaction has more frequently eliminated the traditional role played by customs brokers in ensuring the proper filing of documents. The lack of complete documentation makes targeting and risk mitigation operations on these shipments more difficult for customs authorities.
Mr. Bartoldus likened the e-commerce transformation to innovations brought about by express consignments and flat packages in the 1970s-80s. This also led to a rapid growth in trade volume which challenged customs officials in detecting smuggled contraband and other trade violations. Bartoldus noted that many cross-border e-commerce transactions are small and low-value shipments. In the U.S. and certain other countries these types of shipments often require little or no information to be submitted electronically to customs officials in advance, which reduces their ability to target shipments that may include illegal drugs or counterfeit items.
Ultimately, Bartoldus highlighted the significant shift in the way that consumers conduct transactions and the way the global community conducts trade. He recommends that border officials recognize their areas of greatest risk, prepare and plan for increasing volumes of shipments, develop a methodology and data requirements for processing e-commerce shipments, and allocate appropriate resources and staffing. He concluded by saying “the explosion has started. Border agencies need an e-commerce strategy”.