Commissioner Hosts Meetings with Trade Groups
As part of a commitment to meet regularly with the trade community, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Alan D. Bersin hosted a series of roundtable discussions with trade representatives yesterday at the agency's Washington, D.C. headquarters. Held monthly, the meetings are designed to provide an informal setting for agency officials and trade association leaders to discuss issues and share mutual concerns.
"Why don't we start by discussing some of the matters on your mind," said Bersin to the leaders of the National Council of Textile Organizations, or NCTO, a trade association he was meeting with for the first time. The NCTO, which represents the entire spectrum of the U.S. textile industry from fibers to yarns to fabrics to finished products, was eager to explain its impact on the U.S. economy.
"Overall, the textile sector employs about 600,000," said Cass Johnson, president of the NTCO. "We're a growing industry. We've added 4,000 jobs over the past year and opened four new textile plants including a $500 million assembly facility in South Carolina earlier this year."
The U.S. is the third largest exporter of textile products in the world with $20 billion in exports. "Our exports grew 16 percent last year," he said, noting that the apparel trade has begun to shift back to the Western Hemisphere because of increasing costs in Asia.
But Johnson said his constituency has major concerns about fraud and transshipment schemes that involve the falsifying of certificates of origin. "We estimate that a billion dollars in U.S. revenue is lost because of textile fraud and duties that have not been collected," said Johnson. "We want to make sure that other countries don't illegally take advantage of our competitive edge. Customs enforcement is our industry's number one priority."
Bersin was highly receptive. "We need to partner with industry to protect the nation's interests," he said. "But we will need your help with this as well as other changes we are currently implementing to enhance trade. This is why these meetings are so critically important."
Bersin also met for the first time with the Customs Automotive Round Table, whose members are drawn from two automotive trade associations that represent every major automobile manufacturer producing or selling vehicles in the U.S. Additionally, follow-up meetings were held with the American Association of Exporters and Importers, the Retail Industry Leaders Association, and the International Compliance Professionals Association.
Participants discussed CBP initiatives including the Automated Commercial Environment, also known as ACE; a simplified entry pilot that will be launched in December 2011; and two new Centers for Excellence and Expertise that were established on October 1, 2011 for the pharmaceutical and electronics industries. These centers serve as a single point of processing for businesses enrolled in CBP's trusted shipper programs.
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.