In the past, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) was not really interested in exports "unless they were guns or technology," according to Acting Commissioner of Customs Tom Winkowski. But that's no longer the case, Winkowski said late last week in a presentation at the Coalition of New England Companies for Trade (CONECT) 12th Annual Northeast Cargo Symposium, in Newton, Mass.
CBP is "paying a great deal of attention" to exports and sees them as "new area of opportunity, a new frontier," he said.
CBP is working closely with international traders to identify how to improve and modernize the export process, according to Winkowski. The Commercial Operations Advisory Committee (COAC), a group of industry experts that advises CBP on technical matters, has mapped the current export process and will suggest improvements, Winkowski said. The agency also plans to get input from U.S. exporters, and will for the first time invite trade groups to participate in CBP's discussions with foreign customs organizations on trade processes, he said.
A key aim of those discussions is to reduce paperwork and streamline policies for all parties in trade transactions, Winkowski said.
Winkowski said the new focus on exports is largely being driven by three issues: the federal government's desire to reduce costs for U.S. business to help them be more competitive, the growing need for international cooperation on cargo security, and the move toward harmonization of customs practices worldwide. The challenge, he said, is how to reassess our own export processes while also satisfying import rules overseas, and at the same time make sure both sides of the transaction "dovetail" with cargo security requirements.
Harmonization of import and export regulations as well as cargo security regimes are major initiatives of the World Customs Organization (WCO). The WCO sees U.S. programs as a model for its own and member countries' efforts in those areas. Harmonization also play a role in mutual recognition pacts like the one between CBP's Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) program and the European Union's Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) program that was implemented earlier this year.