BACM LEGISLATION CONTINUES FORWARD
Legislation to modernize U.S. Customs’ import process took another step forward this week with members of various industry groups and government agencies working toward consensus.
The meeting on Capitol Hill was sponsored by staffers of the House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee and the legislation’s principal sponsor, Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Calif. The Trade Subcommittee hopes to mark up the bill, H.R. 4337, the week of July 10 as part of the proposed miscellaneous trade bill.
“We’ve gone over this legislation section by section,” said James P. Finnegan, director of international trade and compliance for Sony Electronics and chairman of the U.S. Business Alliance for Customs Modernization. “We believe that we’ve had a major breakthrough in this meeting of the minds.”
BACM was formed last year by a dozen large importers to change Customs’ auditing process. It has since expanded to 22 large importers, including firms such as Wal-Mart, BP-Amoco, Target and General Motors, who want wider reforms of the Customs’ import process.
H.R. 4337 was proposed by BACM earlier this year. Some language in the legislation had been opposed by several government agencies, but it has been embraced by the industry overall.
Other industry groups at this week’s meeting were the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America, Joint Industry Group, American Association of Exporters and Importers and Customs and International Trade Bar Association.
Government agencies present at the meeting were Treasury, Customs, Census, Maritime Administration, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Labor Statistics and Agriculture Department.
Former Customs Commissioner George Weise moderated the meeting. Weise was involved in crafting the 1993 Customs Modernization Act. H.R. 4337 wants to build on what the Mod Act started.
As it stands, the legislation calls for:
* Filing minimal data for cargo release.
'* Periodic filing of aggregate import information.
* Paying duties, taxes and fees on a periodic basis.
* Establishing a corrective period for import data.
* Creating the ability to net and offset under-declarations and over-declarations.
“This bill will lead us toward the goal of creating an account-based, modernized, cost-effective entry process for industry and government,” Finnegan said.
The parties at the meeting also agreed to incorporate into the legislation a congressionally mandated six-month study on how much data is needed, and when and how it should be presented to clear imports. The study would be undertaken by Treasury in conjunction with other government agencies and industry. The findings would be reported back to the appropriate congressional committees.
H.R. 4337 will also lay the groundwork to a more in depth plan by Customs to reform its entry process, known as the Entry Revision Project or ERP. The industry also hopes to work out these changes in line with the development of Customs’ future computer system, the Automated Commercial Environment.