After several months of discussion, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has agreed to develop a U.S. export version of its Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) program, which since its inception a decade ago has applied solely to cargo security standards for participants in the import supply chain.
Thomas Falanga, C-TPAT supervisor in CBP's New York field office, disclosed the agency's intent at the Coalition of New England Companies for Trade's (CONECT) 16th Annual Northeast Trade and Transportation Conference, held in Newport, R.I.
In November, CBP announced that such a plan was being considered, driven mostly by requests by large U.S. exporters looking for guidance in verifying their compliance with foreign governments' cargo security programs, some of which are based on the C-TPAT protocol.
The export program's initial focus, Falanga said, will be to develop reciprocal agreements with foreign customs administrations that have signed a bilateral Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA) with CBP. MRAs provide for the exchange of customs and security information, and indicate that the security requirements or standards of the foreign industry partnership program, as well as its verification procedures, are similar to C-TPAT's. This allows one business partnership program to recognize the validation findings of the other.
CBP currently has agreements with New Zealand, Canada, Jordan, Japan, and South Korea. The agency is pursuing MRAs with the European Union, Taiwan, and Singapore. It also has plans to conduct joint validations with the General Administration of China Customs in 2012, a preliminary step toward signing an MRA, according to Falanga.
The C-TPAT export initiative is still in its early stages, and the agency's implementation plan "is not ready yet," Falanga said. The next steps are to establish export security criteria with input from the trade community, and then to test them through a pilot program, he said.
Falanga said he expects the export program would begin to move along "in the very near future." However, he cautioned that budget constraints probably would continue to limit the speed of development.