Commissioner Bersin Hosts First Meeting of 12th Term Advisory Committee in Washington
A spirit of cooperation was the prevailing mood when members of the new, 12th term Advisory Committee on Commercial Operations of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, otherwise known as COAC, gathered in Washington, D.C., for their first public meeting on Tuesday. The meeting, held in conjunction with CBP's 11th Trade Symposium, which runs today and tomorrow, April 13-14, brought 20 distinguished members from the trade community together to discuss a wide range of commercial and security-related issues.
"Those who participated last year on the committee, welcome back. You're now senior status," said CBP Commissioner Alan D. Bersin, 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. "It's a two-year term, and to our newcomers, appointed by the secretaries of the Treasury and Homeland Security, thank you for taking up this public service."
Among the 13 newly appointed COAC members are two former commissioners of the U.S. Customs Service, the current president of the National Customs Brokers Forwarders Association of America, the president of the Coalition of New England Companies for Trade, and a past chairman of the Border Trade Alliance.
"It was Commissioner Bersin's idea to have former commissioners join the COAC," said Carol Hallett, who began her tenure as a commissioner of the U.S. Customs Service in 1989, and is a former U.S. ambassador to the Commonwealth of the Bahamas. "Today, I serve as counsel to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In that role, the COAC's issues are very important -- not just in America, but around the world. This will give me an opportunity to bring forth some of their ideas as we go forward."
The meeting included updates on trade programs such as Management by Account. "As some of you who have been around awhile are well aware, it was at your urging that CBP took a closer look at account management and the concepts behind how to move from a transaction based approach to managing trade through account management," said Brenda Smith, executive director of trade and policy programs for CBP's Office of International Trade.
Two of the projects that were highlighted are pilot programs that were launched on November 1, 2010. One of the pilots, a Center for Excellence and Expertise, is in the process of developing strategies to facilitate trade and manage risk within the pharmaceutical industry. The other pilot, an Account Executive program, is engaging trusted partners in the electronics industry to facilitate trade and ensure continued compliance with all import requirements. Both pilots were developed from recommendations made by COAC.
"The Centers of Excellence and Expertise and the Account Executive projects are the pointy end of the spear where the future is being built in Customs and Border Protection. They are absolutely critical to the work that we do," said Bersin.
"We need to get competitive again in America. We need to roll up our sleeves and put people back to work," he said. "And we need to do that by making American exports competitive and American imports cheaper. Our value-added at Customs and Border Protection is to drive down transaction costs. I want to thank the private sector and the people in CBP who have started down that road."
Some of the other issues that were discussed at the meeting include a broker revision project, air cargo security, intellectual property rights enforcement, risk-based bonding and risk factors, "one U.S. government at the border" interagency initiatives, the national strategy for global supply chain security, and computerized modernization efforts through ACE and the International Trade Data System.
"We continue to realize how important ACE is to make real progress," said Don Huber, a returning COAC member who is the Global Customs Manager for the General Electric Co. "ACE is a must even though it is a very belated effort."
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, agriculture inspection, import safety, compliance, and modernization and automation processes used to facilitate trade.
The next COAC meeting is scheduled to be held in Los Angeles on Aug. 18.
- Marcy Mason,
Office of Public Affairs