Acting Commissioner Morgan has First Meeting with Trade Advisory Committee
A spirit of cooperation was the prevailing mood when members of the Commercial Customs Operations Advisory Committee, known as COAC, convened in Buffalo, New York, this week, and met with U.S. Customs and Border Protection Acting Commissioner Mark A. Morgan for the first time. Morgan, who has been at the helm of the agency since early July, co-chaired the public gathering and emphasized the importance of transparency, communication, and collaboration.
“I’m committed to making sure that we tell you what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and when we’re doing it. It’s the only way for us to develop true partnerships, and to go a step further and develop relationships,” said Morgan. “We can improve across the board all of our efficiencies, our effectiveness if we’re transparent. It helps solidify trust.”
Acting Commissioner Morgan also spoke about the importance of communication. “Communication has to be at the forefront of everything that we do, at every step of the process, every step of our partnership, every step of our relationship. We cannot effectively serve our country if we do not effectively communicate our policies,” he said.
Similarly, Morgan also expressed the need to collaborate. “We cannot do it alone. We need your help. We need your advice. We need your expertise to be able to do what we’re doing,” he told the COAC members.
One of the areas of collaboration Morgan addressed was the COAC’s assistance on finding ways to remove economic trade barriers in Central America’s Northern Triangle countries—El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. “We are still in the midst of a crisis. An unprecedented number of migrants are leaving Central America for the United States. It’s the largest exodus reported in the history of the Western Hemisphere,” said Morgan. “They are coming here for a better way of life from an economic front. That’s why your help is urgently needed. We need to enhance our exports to the region. We need to increase market access for U.S. businesses to the region, and we need to improve trade among the three Northern Triangle countries, including enhancing general customs efficiencies.”
Speaking on behalf of the COAC, Lenny Feldman, a senior member of the Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg law firm and an advisory committee co-chair, explained that a Northern Triangle working group comprised of members from the public and private sectors had partnered to quickly develop a comprehensive report and recommendations on how to reduce nontariff trade barriers in the Northern Triangle. “This was a direct request from then-Commissioner McAleenan at our February COAC meeting that we were honored to accept,” said Feldman, noting that the working group’s findings were among the areas that would be discussed that day.
The meeting, which also was co-chaired by Timothy Skud, the U.S. Department of Treasury’s deputy assistant secretary of tax, trade, and tariff policy, included updates on trade programs and COAC subcommittee work. “The agenda today deals with big issues for the nation,” said Skud. “Issues that reflect changes in technology, changes in patterns of trade, changes in how goods are moved, changes in the role of intellectual property rights, and the economy. All big changes that we’re trying to figure out and we need your help to move forward. They’re all important topics of great use to CBP and the Commissioner as they formulate their approach for dealing with customs in the 21st century.”
At the beginning of the meeting Acting Commissioner Morgan introduced U.S. Representative Brian M. Higgins, who attended the COAC meeting as a special guest. Higgins represents New York’s 26th congressional district, which includes Buffalo and Niagara Falls.
At the meeting, 32 recommendations were presented and unanimously passed. Eleven of the recommendations pertained to the Northern Triangle. The remainder focused on intellectual property rights, risk-based bonds, in-bond processes and proposed changes, and trusted trader compliance programs.
COAC is a 20-member advisory committee that was established by Congress in 1987. The committee provides advice and recommendations to CBP and the Department of the Treasury on the commercial operations of CBP and trade-related interdepartmental functions. Some of the issues that COAC focuses on include enhanced border and supply chain security, international efforts to harmonize customs practices and procedures, import safety, compliance, and modernization and automation processes used to facilitate trade.
Announcements were made regarding the next COAC meeting, which will be held in Washington, D.C., on December 4, 2019, and the next CBP Trade Symposium, scheduled for March 10-11, 2020 in Anaheim, California.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between official ports of entry. CBP is charged with securing the borders of the United States while enforcing hundreds of laws and facilitating lawful trade and travel.