Bersin Hosts Second Series of Meetings with Trade Groups
As part of an ongoing effort to work more closely with the trade community, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Alan Bersin held a series of roundtable discussions with trade representatives on Dec. 6 at the agency's Washington, D.C. headquarters.
This was the second full day of meetings with trade organizations hosted by the commissioner, who is seeking to improve the country's economic competitiveness. Held monthly, the meetings are designed to provide an informal setting for agency officials and trade association leaders to discuss issues and share mutual concerns.
"The purpose of these meetings, at least from our perspective, is to have a constructive dialogue," said Bersin to the members of the American Association of Exporters and Importers, the first of the five groups that met with him on Monday. "We need a way in which we can flag systemic issues and then we need to enlist your help in getting the word out," he said.
Bersin was candid with the group. "As we continue to work with other government agencies and foreign governments in our effort to improve our economic competitiveness, the private sector needs to be engaged," he said.
On a more philosophical level, he explained that the key to today is to not view the future as things used to be. "If we look in the rearview mirror too often, we're not going to get to where we need to be," said Bersin. "We need to accelerate our movement forward."
For three of the five organizations that convened -- the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, the Association of American Railroads, and the Retail Industry Leaders Association -- it was their first opportunity to meet with the commissioner. Additionally, the National Association of Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America held its periodic meeting with CBP's top brass that day.
Some of the issues that were discussed at the meetings include new developments on the Automated Commercial Environment, user fees on empty railcars with residue, advanced air cargo reporting and its implications for filers, incentives and benefits of CBP trade programs, and air cargo security.
"As a result of the Yemen cargo plot, we are now working closely with TSA on some pretty dramatic things," said Bersin to the members of the Retail Industry Leaders Association, noting that the agencies will soon be launching a test pilot with the express consignment industry.
"What we're looking for is advanced information so that we can make a judgment early on, much like we do with maritime cargo," said Thomas Winkowski, CBP's assistant commissioner of field operations who is spearheading the project for the agency. "We've got a really good understanding of when this information is available and what kind of information the industry has. We've made a lot of progress in a relatively short period of time."
The meetings also provided opportunities for the industry groups to partner with CBP. "The biggest concern for us is to educate policymakers who don't have as much direct experience with trade on how proposed policies can impact supply chains," said Stephanie Lester, the vice president of international trade for the Retail Industry Leaders Association. "
We've come a long way in educating the committees in Congress who work on trade issues. They get it," she said. "But it's the other committees that don't traditionally work on trade that have a real learning curve."
Lester explained that a lot could be accomplished by working with CBP. "We can explain how supply chains work," she said, "and CBP can explain how they enforce them."
by Marcy Mason, Office of Public Affairs
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.