A public meeting in Boston last week of the Commercial Customs Operations Advisory Committee (COAC), which advises U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on commercial operations, was awash in the technical minutiae of customs compliance. Subcommittees reported their detailed recommendations in such areas as intellectual property rights, customs bonds, export manifest testing, and data sharing among government agencies, to name but a few. One broader theme that emerged was the need to expand the benefits of process modernization beyond U.S. borders and to bring best practices from abroad to the U.S.
Toward that end, a COAC working group established late last year is developing recommendations for implementing a North American Single Window encompassing the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The U.S. Single Window, part of the International Trade Data System (ITDS) and CBP's new Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) information system, is a portal that allows international traders to file information about shipments once and electronically share data with all relevant U.S. government agencies. Mexico already has such a system for imports, and Canada's version, like that of the U.S., is being rolled out in phases. A North American Single Window would provide import and export information to customs and other federal agencies in all three countries, with a stated goal of aligning and streamlining regulatory requirements, data sets, and processing without compromising enforcement and risk assessment.
During the program, CBP Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske and other CBP officials held a separate press conference that provided updates on a wide range of topics. Among the highlights:
During the event's opening remarks and the press conference, several speakers noted that Congress is increasingly interested in and supportive of trade enforcement, and that trade's unexpected prominence in the presidential campaign could be beneficial in keeping the trade community's needs and priorities in front of policymakers. When asked to what degree a change in administration affects customs policies and priorities, Kerlikowske, who plans to step down when a new president takes office, said that he couldn't comment, as he had not experienced such a change. However, he did have a recommendation for the new administration, regardless of party: that a new commissioner be appointed and confirmed as quickly as possible, and the position not allowed to remain unfilled for several years, as was the case prior to his confirmation. CBP, he said, is a "sophisticated, complex agency" that has a major impact on national security and the economy and needs leadership.