Commissioner Gives Trade Groups Top Priority
With the 2011 calendar year rapidly coming to a close, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Alan D. Bersin made meeting with the trade community one of his top priorities. On Thursday, Bersin met for the first time with two key industry groups at the agency's Washington, D.C. headquarters.
The groups, the American Petroleum Institute, the only national trade association that represents all aspects of America's oil and natural gas industry, and the Global Air Cargo Advisory Group, a newly established organization comprised of four international air transport trade associations, shared their most pressing concerns.
"Let's launch right into the issues. What's on your mind?" Bersin asked the leaders of the Global Air Cargo Advisory Group, who represent an industry that conducts a little more than $5 trillion of international trade each year.
"We've become more and more complex and we want to drive down costs and attain group efficiencies," said William Gottlieb, past president of the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Association. "The harnessing of technology is the key element in making both of those objectives happen," he said.
"Our group is supporting the use of electronic data interchange with regards to not only advanced customs information, but also with import and export clearances," Gottlieb explained. "We're seeking your assistance as a leader in launching these paperless initiatives to help us communicate to the World Customs Organization the need, the desire, and certainly the benefits that we can bring in a paperless environment."
The trade group also is a proponent of industry-government collaboration, including providing advance data information on shipments for security purposes. "The best way to do that is to find a data set, ideally one that can be harmonized with other countries, which can be pushed out quickly and efficiently in an electronic environment," said Gottlieb, who expressed the need to foster a better understanding and awareness of the advisory group's programs within the air transport industry. "They should be joining early on in the cycle and embracing this," he said.
Bersin agreed and with the assistance of several CBP senior officials provided an update on the agency's Air Cargo Advance Screening pilot program, known as ACAS. The program, a joint effort with the Transportation Security Administration, was launched in December 2010, in response to a foiled terrorist plot in which explosive devices were planted within cargo shipments on board aircraft bound for the U.S.
CBP and TSA met with various trade partners to better understand individual business practices and to collectively develop a mechanism to collect cargo data as soon as possible in the supply chain for security filing purposes. The initial phase of the pilot focused on the express consignment industry. The next phase will include passenger carriers and freight forwarders.
"Your support organizationally will help us all move in the same direction," said Bersin to a highly receptive audience.
"We can serve as a resource. You've got all sectors of the industry represented here. It can save a lot of steps, a lot of time," said Peter Gatti, the executive vice president of the National Industrial Transportation League.
Bersin suggested that the group first learn more about CBP's approach to trade. "Expediting lawful traffic is the primer of the security program. It enables us to focus on high-risk shipments," he said. "This is a good thing to do for the private sector. It's also absolutely essential for the security of our nation."
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.