Acting Commissioner Winkowski Hosts Trade Advisory Committee in D.C.
When members of the Advisory Committee on Commercial Operations of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, also known as COAC, met in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday for their third quarter meeting, they were commended on their progress.
"A tremendous amount of work has been done by the COAC subcommittees and the working groups this past quarter," said CBP Acting Commissioner Thomas S. Winkowski, who co-chaired the proceedings with Timothy Skud, the deputy assistant secretary of tax, trade, and tariff policy for the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
But before any presentations or recommendations from the COAC subcommittees were heard, Winkowski had some news to share. "The Department of Homeland Security has approved our three-year plan to complete ACE," he said, referring to the Automated Commercial Environment, the agency's cargo processing system. "We've struggled over the years and by working more closely, we've been able to get over those hurdles and move forward."
"We will begin full filing in ACE for cargo and manifest data in 2015 and we will complete the transition to ACE in 2016,"said Winkowski "So we have a lot of work to do and we need your help in promoting ACE and getting people online and involved in a full implementation."
Winkowski also announced that R. Gil Kerlikowske, the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, had been nominated as the next CBP commissioner. "As I have mentioned several times, I think it's important that we have permanent leadership," said Winkowski. "The nomination gets us closer to that."
The acting commissioner also spoke about the second annual trade efficiency survey that the COAC sent out in June. "We had over 750 responses. It's double from last year's response rate," he said. "That tells me there's a lot of interest out there and people want to tell us what we're doing right and what we need to improve on. We really need to take those problems very seriously and work through them, and get back to individuals to show we are taking their comments into consideration," he said.
Speaking on behalf of the COAC, Ted Sherman, director of global trade services for Target Corp. and the advisory committee's co-chair, underscored the importance of leveraging COAC as a key partner in the process of modernizing trade and ensuring the safety, security and efficiency of the international supply chain. "The challenges and opportunities we face are simply too complex for policy to be developed in a vacuum," he said. "We're seeing that not only is a partnership between the private and public sectors necessary, but also among different agencies within the government and, then finally, across different governments around the world."
Sherman noted that exports present an example of this complexity. "Over the last few months COAC has been involved in a significant undertaking, working with CBP, other government agencies and private stakeholders to lay the foundation for modernizing the country's export process, which is a key element to economic competitiveness," said Sherman. "But before the broader strategic issues can be addressed, there is a significant work effort, which is required in developing a baseline understanding among all parties as to how the total export process actually works today."
To develop that baseline understanding, the COAC Exports Subcommittee mapped out the U.S. process for exporting goods. Their findings were eye opening. "From an overall big picture, the subcommittee saw that the export process is fragmented," said Julie Ann Parks, a COAC member who is the senior manager for export/import operations at the Raytheon Co. "We found that the declaration folks may not know what the carriers, the freight forwarders and the brokers know," she said. "The fragmentation continues on to the U.S. government side," she added.
Air cargo security was another topic highlighted at the meeting. "The COAC brings four recommendations today that are intended to ensure the success of ACAS [Air Cargo Advance Screening]," as it moves from a pilot program to a regulatory mandate, said Sherman. "Given the complexity of this issue we anticipate the process of expanding and refining ACAS will continue."
The ACAS pilot program, a joint effort with CBP, the Transportation Security Administration, and the air cargo community, was launched in December 2010 in response to a foiled terrorist plot in which explosive devices were planted within cargo shipments on aircraft bound for the U.S. The pilot program's objective was to receive predeparture cargo data globally to allow CBP and TSA to conduct joint security risk analysis to identify potential threats to aviation.
"We all know that lavish praise has been heaped upon ACAS both in this forum and many others," said Elizabeth Shaver, a COAC member who is the director of cargo services for Airlines for America. "But on the industry side, we've always said that the reason it has been successful is that it's practical and pragmatic and based on the realities of the supply chain as it exists and not as we would like it to exist. We think that if the regulatory regime is going to be successful, it needs to follow that same approach and be based upon supply chain realities," she said. "We're not asking for anything new. We're simply asking for a regulatory implementation of how the pilot, the very, very successful pilot, works."
All four of the subcommittee's recommendations were passed. "We are going to be as flexible as possible and accommodate as many business models as possible within the legal framework we have to deal with," Winkowski said.
Recommendations were also presented and passed regarding the continuing education aspect of the Role of the Broker initiative. "It's an important component to promoting broker professionalism," said Sherman.
As part of the recommendations for maintaining a broker's license, customs brokers would be required to take a minimum of 40 hours of continued education over a 36-month reporting period. A minimum of 32 of those continuing education hours would need to be from accredited sources.
Other areas of discussion during the meeting included trusted trader partnerships, antidumping/countervailing duties, One U.S. Government at the Border, intellectual property rights enforcement, land border initiatives, bonds, regulatory audit and ACE.
"I am very encouraged by the tremendous amount of work that you're undertaking," said Don Huber, global customs manager for the General Electric Co. and a former COAC member, who attended the meeting and made a public comment. "What you're doing really helps all importers and everybody in the importing community," he said. "At the same time, similar accolades go to CBP for allowing this interaction, so that when you do come up with new regulations and work processes, they've been thought through with input from the trade."
Several other announcements were made during the meeting. Some were regarding CBP personnel. Allen Gina, assistant commissioner for CBP's Office of International Trade, will be retiring from service in early September. Mr. Gina, a 30-year veteran of the U.S. Customs Service and CBP, has held a number of key headquarters positions in recent years. David Murphy, who has been the acting assistant commissioner of CBP's Office of Field Operations for the past six months, will retire at the end of September. Murphy formerly headed CBP's Chicago office and has served the agency for more than 30 years.
Other news included the appointment of Deputy Assistant Commissioner Richard DiNucci as the acting assistant commissioner of CBP's Office of International Trade. Cynthia Whittenburg was named the executive director of CBP's trade policy and programs. John Leonard, who was the acting executive director of trade policy and programs, will become CBP's attaché in Singapore. Elena Ryan was named director of the Centers of Excellence and Expertise transition team and Heather Sykes will be the new project manager for CBP's Role of the Broker initiative.
At the close of the meeting, Winkowski announced that CBP's East Coast Trade Symposium will be held Oct. 24-25.
COAC is a 20-member advisory committee that Congress established in 1987. The committee provides advice and recommendations to CBP and the Department of 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.
The next COAC meeting is scheduled to be held in Washington, D.C.
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 the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.