9/11 – 18 years on

WTC 6, home to the US Customs Service, New York until September 2001

As unrecognisable as the building is, the same can be said for the world of Customs today. Few contemplated a ‘Customs’ parallel at the time; but, when the Department of Homeland Security was launched, the emergence of US Customs and Border Protection (USCBP) ushered in a new way of doing business. The world of Customs was literally ‘turned on its head’. Bilateral overtures seeking agreements on ‘container security’, ‘port security’ as well as an industry focussed ‘Customs and Trade Partnership Against Terrorism’ (C-TPAT) forced the World Customs Organisation (WCO) into swift action. After years of deliberation and negotiation several guidelines were released, later to be packaged as the WCO SAFE Framework of Standards. It seemed that the recent Revised Kyoto Convention (RKC) on simplification and harmonisation of Customs procedures was already ‘dated’. Customs as a proud solo entity was gone for ever, as country after country seemed compelled to address border security through wholesale transformation and upheaval of their border frontier policies and structures. Thus was born ‘border security’ and ‘cooperative border management’. In a manner of speaking, 9/11 put Customs onto the global map. Along with WCO developments, the tech industries brought about several innovations for risk management and other streamlined and efficient service offerings. Prior to 9/11, only the wealthy countries could afford non-intrusive inspection capabilities. One key aspect of the SAFE Framework’s was to include a pillar on Capacity Building. Through this, the WCO and business partners are able to offer tailor-made assistance to developing countries, to uplift their Customs and border capabilities. In particular, countries in Africa now are now in a position to consider ‘automated’ capabilities in the area of Customs-2-Customs information exchange as well as establishment of national Preferred Trader and Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) schemes. At the same time a parallel industry of ‘Customs Experts’ is being developed in conjunction with the private sector. The end result is the availability of ‘standards’, ‘policies’ and ‘guidelines’ fit for Customs and Border operations, focussed on eliminating incompatibilities and barriers to trade. Where these exist, they are largely attributed to poor interpretation and application of these principles. With closer cooperation amongst various border authorities still a challenge for many countries, there are no doubt remedies available to address these needs. In gratitude, let us remember the thousands of public servants and civilians who lost their lives that we can benefit today.

9/11 14 years on…

CBP Commemoration 9-11

We will never forget the ones we lost 14 years ago and we honor the bravery of those who worked to save others. @CustomsBorder

Cracking Down on Cheating by Foreign Companies

Customs LawThe following article and its ensuing piece of legislation would seem to suggest that current Customs’ automated risk management is not doing its job, or at least is not as successful as authorities would often have one believe. Will this legislation signal a return to good old-fashioned ‘manual’ customs investigative work based on human intelligence? What the Congressman appears to overlook is that it is the US importers who are liable for correct clearance of foreign supplied goods. If CTPAT (and any other AEO scheme for that matter) have any worth, then surely the USCBP would look at de-accrediting US importers who fall foul of its import compliance levels? For many, the question remains – how successful (or even relevant) are the post 9/11 Customs Security measures? Besides creating significant expense budgets for Customs administrations, lucrative business opportunities for scientists, technology vendors, standards bodies, and of course consulting opportunities for the hundreds of audit firms and donor agencies – are the benefits, cost-savings and efficiencies in our current era of “Security” that visible? For many traders, all of this has been accepted as little more than the cost of doing and remaining in business. Period!

Congressman Dan Lipinski introduced legislation that will help American manufacturers grow their businesses and add jobs by cracking down on foreign companies that illegally avoid paying millions of dollars in customs duties. The Customs Training Enhancement Act (click on hyperlink to view the Bill) will facilitate the sharing of information between the private sector and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, enabling the government to do a better job of identifying schemes that cheat American taxpayers by importing foreign goods without paying duties.

The bill, which was folded into Democratic and Republican versions of more comprehensive Customs legislation in the previous Congress, further advances the goal of levelling the playing field so American businesses have a fairer shot against their foreign competitors.

“Blatant cheating by foreign firms has become more widespread at a time when American employers and workers are already at a serious disadvantage. This is not only bad for American business, but it hurts taxpayers by robbing the federal government of taxes it is rightfully owed,” Rep. Lipinski said. “The Customs Training Enhancement Act offers a common-sense approach by allowing impacted industries to  provide our Customs agents the critical intelligence they need to spot the cheaters.”

Since 2001, importers and exporters of goods into the United States have avoided paying $600 million in duties, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, which estimates that 90 percent of all transhipped or mislabelled items originated in China. Foreign companies have avoided duties by misclassifying and undervaluing products or by shipping goods from one country to another on their way to the United States in order to disguise the country of origin.

Under Rep. Lipinski’s bill, Customs and Border Protection would be required to seek out companies and trade groups that have information that can identify misrepresented shipments. That information, in turn, would be shared directly from these industry experts to Customs agents working on the front lines.

The Customs Training Enhancement Act is modelled on a successful program forged between the steel industry and Customs and Border Protection in which company and industry officials have taught Customs agents how to spot products that have been deliberately mislabelled.

“The steel industry has shown us a public-private partnership that saves taxpayers millions of dollars while costing the federal government very few, if any, resources,” Lipinski said. “We need to expand this program and fight back against the lying and cheating by foreign companies that are hurting American taxpayers, businesses, and workers. The Customs Training Enhancement Act is an important first step.” Source: www.lipinski.house.gov