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CBP details e-commerce strategy

U.S. Customs and Border Protection released a long-awaited treatise on how it will cope with the fast rise of low-value, high-volume cross-border e-commerce shipments.

   U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) last week released a long-awaited strategy document for how the agency will contend with the security and revenue collection threat posed by rising cross-border e-commerce volume.
   The document lays out a handful of goals CBP will aim to accomplish as it wrestles with a growing number of low-value shipments.
   “The shift from traditional methods of importing via large, containerized shipments to small, low-value packages has presented new challenges for CBP,” CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan wrote in the report. “The growing volume of these small packages, coupled with the actionable data challenges CBP and other federal agencies face, requires new methods and resources in order for CBP to continue carrying out its mission of facilitating trade and enforcing trade laws.”
   CBP’s strategy will revolve around four objectives:
     • Recalibrate CBP’s regulatory posture and partnerships with other U.S. agencies to address emerging threats posed by e-commerce;
     • Enhance data collection, targeting, examinations, intelligence and international engagement to better target small shipments over which CBP currently has less data than from larger, containerized shipments;
     • Compel e-commerce stakeholders to comply through enforcement resources and incentives, like trusted trade programs;
     • And work with counterpart agencies abroad and through the World Customs Organization (WCO) to develop international e-commerce trade standards.
   “Since 2000, the number of Americans shopping online has increased nearly fourfold, up from 22 percent to 79 percent,” the report said. “This rapidly accelerating increase in volume is largely comprised of shipments valued under $2,500. At the end of fiscal year 2017, one port that has an express consignment hub received an estimated 25 million predominantly informal and de minimis (packages declared at less than $800) value shipments. In comparison, this same facility averaged 2.4 million shipments between 1997 and 1999.
   “With regard to lower-value, small shipments, CBP receives less actionable data on e-commerce shipments, which informs its traditional risk assessment and targeting screenings,” the document added. “To correct this vulnerability, CBP must put into place new protocols that allow for effective identification, enforcement, and deterrence of trade violations in the e-commerce environment.”
   Among the more intriguing areas of the strategy are those initiatives around inducements to get private sector compliance, broader technology adoption, and international dialogue.
   On the first point, the document suggests that “CBP will propose benefits for those parties who share advance electronic data and other information, and will utilize penalty action for those who are not compliant in this area. CBP will in turn seek to increase information sharing with e-commerce stakeholders, such as intellectual property rights holders.
   “CBP will consider trade benefit incentives for e-commerce marketplaces and small package carriers, similar to the Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (CTPAT),” it added. “CBP will explore all aspects of the e-commerce supply chain for partners in a known shipper program. To maximize participation and include the majority of the volume in the supply chain, CBP will focus on trading modes such as marketplaces and carriers.”
   On the second point, the strategy indicates the agency will seek out more powerful target tools.
   “CBP originally designed its risk management practices to focus on traditional shipping methods,” the document said. “Now, it must expand them to address the unprecedented flow of goods from new, unknown, and often less proficient importers. CBP will increase its operational efficiency and effectiveness by using data analytics, data mining, and an array of powerful analytical tools.”
   On the third point, the agency said it will partner with foreign governments and international bodies, such as the WCO, “to set international standards and develop best practices for e-commerce import processing.”
   Also key to the strategy is educational outreach for importers who may not understand duty requirements.
   McAleenan spoke often in 2017 about CBP’s development of an e-commerce strategy as he discussed the challenges that changing consumer habits are having on the agency he oversees.