Bonner: Industry partnership key to cargo security
The most important thing the next Customs and Border Protection commissioner can do in office is to sustain CBP’s partnership with the private sector so that security measures enhance rather than impede trade and travel, Robert Bonner told the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Friday.
During his four years in office, Bonner and his staff worked closely with the trade community to develop the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism, a voluntary supply chain security program for importers and transportation services providers. CBP officials also took pains to gather feedback from shippers, carriers and others on the best way to implement the 24-hour rule and other requirements to collect and pre-screen advance shipping data for security purposes; update C-TPAT minimum security criteria after the program’s first two years; and implement a special bill of lading reporting process to help non-vessel operating common carriers get release of containers from ocean carriers.
Importers and exporters have praised Bonner for his fairness when it comes to enforcing compliance with customs and trade regulations, especially for eschewing the “gotcha” approach of some previous Customs administrations designed to maximize penalty collections. Many CBP programs now have procedures to try and educate traders about their responsibilities and delay enforcement for inadvertent types of mistakes on entries and other documents.
“It was important as we moved forward that we did so in an enlightened way,” Bonner said in response to an audience question after his final speech as commissioner. “We don’t want to slip back to a we versus they” mentality.
“I hope I’ve institutionalized that dialogue,” said Bonner, whose last day in office is Wednesday.