Modernizing Imports and Exports

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*This is the fourth entry in our EC 2017 Trade Symposium Series. Our first entry discussed the opening remarks and missions priorities as set out by Executive Assistant Commissioner, Brenda Smith. Our second entry recounts the President of the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association’s, Geoff Powell’s, interview with Acting Commissioner Kevin McAleenan. Our third entry discussed North American Collaboration for Cargo Processing.


Cynthia Whittenburg, Deputy Executive Assistant Commissioner for CBP’s Office of International Trade moderated a panel at the 2017 CBP East Coast Trade Symposium consisting of fellow CBP and DHS officials, as well as a private sector representative, to discuss the evolution of CBP’s practices in response to the evolving trade environment, relevant legislation impacting the Agency, and how the Agency must continue to adapt into the future.

Panelists discussed some of the history behind the Customs Modernization Act of 1993, passed in concert with the original NAFTA. More recently, the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act (TFTEA), passed in 2016, codified a great deal of trade modernization activities for CBP. However, further legislative actions may still need to be taken. John Leonard, Executive Director of Trade Policy and Programs for CBP, discussed the need to further simplify different processes, such as better flexibility in the billing statement and payment cycles to allow the trade industry to better harmonize them with their billing cycles. Leonard also stated that further simplifying the Drawback process would be beneficial.

Michael Dougherty, Assistant Secretary for Border, Immigration, and Trade Policy at DHS, discussed the Department’s collaboration with the Department of Commerce and joint goals to make regulations and interagency agreements help industry and grow businesses, while protecting workers and consumers.

Blockchain TechnologyIn response to a question about the role of blockchain technology, Leonard discussed how the Commercial Operations Advisory Committee (COAC) has established a workgroup dedicated to exploring different use cases associated with blockchain in the trade environment. Citing a couple examples, Leonard believed blockchain could be used to validate the goods of rightsholders and for tracking the origin of goods. He noted it would be key for CBP to work in collaboration with the trade as blockchain technology advances in the industry.

Leonard also commented on the need to further streamline the liquidation process; to enhance the record-keeping compliance program; and to build process improvements for entry-summary in ACE. Echoing Acting Commissioner McAleenan’s sentiments on the e-commerce challenge, it was mentioned that scanning technology to detect fentanyl and other opioids in small packages would be of great use to the agency.

Regarding ACE, trade stakeholders expressed desire for CBP to not only finish full functionality of the system, but also to protect it against outages, as was experienced in the summer of 2017. While new, advanced technologies are needed in other areas, finishing and maintaining ACE is a priority for the trade community. Stakeholders also asked that more functions be aligned with the Centers for Excellence and Expertise if it would make them more efficient, such as fines, penalties, and forfeitures; and the drawback process. 

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