Commissioner Challenges Chamber of Commerce Audience to Adopt New View on Security, Trade
At a time when security and trade are two of the most critical issues facing the nation, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Alan Bersin addressed business and government leaders at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday.
Bersin, who was the keynote speaker at a summit hosted by the chamber titled "North American Competitiveness and the Global Supply Chain," challenged audience members to view security and trade through a different prism.
"The usual paradigm in security and trade facilitation is that the two are mutually exclusive if not antithetical to one another. They have to be balanced," said Bersin. "What I'd like to do is challenge that today and make the argument that in the contemporary security context, security and trade facilitation are, in fact, the same phenomenon."
Bersin illustrated his point by referencing the last three terrorist attempts against the American homeland and discussing the implications.
"It is by looking at borders not just as physical boundaries, but also as flows of goods and people that we begin to understand the global supply chain and its interaction with border protection and border security," he said. "We need to make judgments about passengers and cargos as early in time and as far away geographically as we can from the actual physical boundaries. It requires that the information be obtained pre-departure and that the assessments of risk be made before a plane, a train, or a ship actually departs from the home port."
As part of his analysis, Bersin stressed the importance of partnerships. He noted that in the wake of the Yemen cargo plot, collaboration between CBP and the Transportation Security Administration has been unprecedented in its depth and breath. Partnering with the private sector was also underscored. "Government agencies cannot alone secure the global supply chain," he said. "Unless we engage with the private sector in new and different and more intensive ways, we will not be able to increase our security profile or economic competitiveness."
The half-day summit featured other notable speakers including Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas; Paul DeLaney, a senior attorney for trade and international affairs at FedEx Express; and Thomas Travis, managing partner at Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg, who presented preliminary results of a survey on customs modernization priorities conducted by the Association of American Chambers of Commerce in Latin America.
Another major highlight of the summit was a panel discussion on opportunities and challenges with the global supply chain. The four-person panel included speakers from CBP, TSA, the U.S. Department of Commerce and Boeing Co.
"We are undertaking a number of initiatives either at CBP or as part of a larger government-wide mission," said panelist Brenda Brockman Smith, CBP's executive director of international policy.
Some of the efforts, many of which are on a global scale, include President Obama's National Export Initiative, air cargo security, simplifying CBP's entry and financial processes, further development of the Automated Commercial Environment and the launch of two account-based pilots.
"We're also looking at testing better ways to use data," said Brockman. "We receive a lot of data, but is it the right data? Do we know enough about a supply chain to be able to essentially negate compliant low-risk importers?"
Brockman asked audience members to work with CBP to help refine the facilitation process. "Educate us. Where are the touch points, where are the costs, and where are the tools that we both can be using?"
-- Marcy Mason, CBP 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.