CBP Commissioner Looks to Trade Groups to Build Partnerships
When U.S. Customs and Border Protection Acting Commissioner David V. Aguilar met with members of the trade community this week, he told industry leaders that CBP is seeking joint solutions to improve the agency's operations and maintain the country's economic competitiveness.
"We are looking to find more efficient ways of doing business, building partnerships, and transforming CBP," said Aguilar, who opened the meeting with an overview of the agency's budget. "The government is going to be a little tighter for the next few years, and we appreciate your input as we move forward."
Aguilar, who hosted the meetings with his senior staff at CBP's headquarters in Washington, D.C., April 9-10, explained why he thought the meetings were significant. "We feel that these kinds of exchanges, this kind of interaction is critically important to keep us moving down the path of what we started a couple of years ago, and that is transforming the way we do business with the business community, making sure that at every opportunity we co-create the direction we are headed in," he told members of the National Association of Manufacturers. NAM is the largest manufacturing association in the U.S., which represents an industry sector that employs nearly 12 million workers and is the largest driver of economic growth in the nation.
NAM's members gladly shared their views. "As you build the Centers of Excellence and Expertise, there are some items that the trade would like to put in front of you to consider," said Douglas Browning, Global Customs Counsel for General Motors Corporation and a former CBP deputy commissioner.
The Centers of Excellence and Expertise are industry specific centers designed to help facilitate legitimate trade and enhance CBP's enforcement efforts. The first two centers, for the pharmaceutical and electronics industries, were established in October 2011. The centers provide a central point of contact for answering inquiries and resolving industry-related issues.
"One of the thoughts I had," said Browning, "is if you're looking for consistency in operation, the centers could drive that consistency. If you're looking for uniformity, they can drive that uniformity."
Browning asked if NAM could provide CBP with a list of things the association's members would like to see in the Centers of Excellence and Expertise. "You could examine those things and see whether or not it makes sense in terms of how you'd like to build the centers," he said.
"Absolutely," said Aguilar without hesitation. "We look forward to seeing that kind of information. In fact, one of the things that we are doing now with the two existing centers is we are asking the trade community to help us identify the things that we have done right, what we could do better, what we need to be including, and things of that nature," he said. "So as we move forward, input like that would be very, very valuable and very welcome."
The group's discussion included a range of other topics such as the agency's efforts toward simplifying the entry process for shipments coming into the U.S., automating and modernizing the import process, CBP's trusted shipper programs, the role of brokers in these programs, and the Beyond the Border initiatives that are designed to enhance facilitation of goods and security between the U.S. and Canada.
During the two days of meetings, Aguilar also met with the American Association of Exporters and Importers and the Retail Industry Leaders Association. The roundtable discussions are designed to provide an informal setting for agency officials and trade association leaders to discuss issues and share mutual concerns.
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.