Commissioner Bersin Hosts Trade Advisory Committee Meeting in D.C.
When members of the Advisory Committee on Commercial Operations of Customs and Border Protection, otherwise known as COAC, gathered in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday for their last public meeting of the year, there was a great sense of accomplishment. Both COAC, comprised of 20 appointed members from the international trade community, and the government agencies that hosted the gathering acknowledged the significant progress that had been made.
Photo Credit:Jim Tourtellotte
"We're delighted to be here and I want to share with the public my thanks to the COAC," said CBP Commissioner Alan D. Bersin, who credited the committee for reenergizing trade and reengineering the agency's trade practices. "We're getting a lot of inspiration, a lot of support, and a lot of critical friendship from the members of this committee," he said.
Bersin co-chaired the proceedings with Timothy Skud, the deputy assistant secretary of tax, trade, and tariff policy for the U.S. Department of Treasury. "At the beginning of this session of COAC, we challenged you to deal with big issues," said Skud. "Looking over the materials and recommendations that you provided, there are lots of creative ideas and an awful lot of sweat. You grappled with some tough economic and political issues," he said. "So I want to thank the committee for your hard work."
The COAC members also agreed that their agenda has been an aggressive one. "In the past 10 months, the COAC, in collaboration with CBP, has provided advice and recommendations on a variety of key initiatives. We've also worked on implementation of a number of new pilots," said the committee's vice chairperson, Karen Lobdell, in her opening remarks.
Lobdell, the director of global solutions for Integration Point, a trade management software firm based in Charlotte, North Carolina, noted that the committee has been working on pilot programs such as the Centers of Excellence and Expertise, account executive programs, a simplified entry pilot, and upcoming pilots on entry summary and financial processing initiatives. "These initiatives are the result of COAC efforts and recommendations that started over four years ago," said Lobdell, who listed many other work group activities that the committee has been involved with. Some of these include the ACAS pilot program for air cargo security, role of the broker initiatives, enhancements to promote intellectual property facilitation, fresh ideas to enforce antidumping and countervailing duty orders and collections, and eliminating import document redundancies among the various federal agencies.
"It's fair to say that the work accomplished to date is heavily tied to the sense of strong leadership at the executive levels of CBP and an approach that is noticeably goal-driven with specific deadlines," said Lobdell. "I think it's also important to note that the amount of outreach and engagement with the trade in the past year cannot be understated. This is not limited to just the COAC, but includes numerous other trade groups as well. As a result, the trade is more engaged than ever and the COAC, in particular, has been reinvigorated with respect to their goals. Much is being accomplished."
A few announcements were made at the meeting. One pertained to the Simplified Entry pilot scheduled to begin in January 2012. The pilot seeks to reduce redundant paperwork requirements and adjust policies, procedures, and technology that slow the trade process down and cause unnecessary delays with shipments or "entries." "We identified nine official participants in this pilot and they are all entry filers or brokers since we are testing the entry filing process," said Steve Hilsen, the director of trade policy and agreements from CBP's Office of International Trade. The partner participants, which range in terms of company size, will include FedEx Trade Networks, Expeditors, UPS, A.N. Derringer, Kuehne + Nagel, Inc; Livingston International, The Janel Group, FH Kaysing, and Page & Jones Inc.
Hilsen explained that the pilot will also include associated stakeholders such as importers and software vendors who do the processing. "As we all know, brokers don't just file entries because they file entries. They do so on behalf of importers," he said. To date, eight importers have been named as pilot participants. These include Nike, New Balance, GE Energy, Ford Motor Company, The Boeing Company, L.L. Bean, Lear Corporation, and Chrysler. More importers are expected to be added as the pilot progresses.
Bersin also shared a joint announcement from President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Harper with the committee members regarding a new course for border management between the two countries. Bersin explained that the new Beyond the Border Action Plan was connected to a joint declaration made between the United States and Canada earlier this year in February. "This is of enormous significance," said Bersin, noting that the plan articulates a long-term vision for security and economic cooperation between the two countries that will address common threats while facilitating lawful trade and travel.
Shortly before the conclusion of the meeting, Deputy Commissioner David V. Aguilar stepped in for Bersin, who needed to leave early with one of his senior staff members to attend a meeting in El Paso, Texas. Aguilar ended the meeting with his own note of inspiration. "Based on the energy, the momentum, the interaction, and the dynamic nature of the relationship that has developed, we have had a really good year, but I think we'll have an even better year next year," he said. "This is not bad when we take into consideration what we are charged with-our responsibilities, our duties, and what we are trying to make better here. It will not only affect and impact business, your businesses, the trade, and our organization, but ultimately our country."
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 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.
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.