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CBP prioritizes modernization wish list

Authorizations for data access and sharing, new processes and resource optimization sought.

   As U.S. Customs and Border Protection works toward promoting introduction of successor legislation to the Customs Modernization Act of 1993 (Mod Act), the agency sees several major areas necessary to prioritize for modernizing its trade enforcement functions, CBP Executive Assistant Commissioner for Trade Brenda Smith said Tuesday during the agency’s 2018 Trade Symposium in Atlanta.
   Those areas include data access and sharing, “responsible party” definitions and enforcement, new processes and resource optimization.
   To be clear, CBP has been able to conduct several activities within each of those areas without any authorizations that would be provided in a Mod Act 2.0, as Smith highlighted during her speech.
   On the data access and sharing side, the agency hopes to leverage its work on the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) to more fully define the “One U.S. Government” concept and use the data coming through ACE more effectively, both in the public and private sectors, Smith said.
   “I recently had the opportunity to meet with the commissioners of both Dutch customs and Singapore customs, and they both talked about the efforts that they have implemented and are working on to more effectively use the data collected by the single window, by both the public sector and the private sector,” Smith said. “I look forward to learning more about that, and then talking with you about how we can do that to support our government interventions.”
   She added that such interventions should be as risk-based and focused as possible, as well as provide business intelligence to the trade community, “whether you’re a large corporation or a small/medium-sized enterprise that may need the additional insights that come through good management of that data.”
   Regarding “responsible party” definitions and enforcement, Smith said since enactment of the Mod Act, parties to the supply chain have evolved from what was traditionally an importer/carrier/customs broker model, to “many different types of parties engaged in managing complex supply chains,” which often didn’t exist in the trade space anticipated by the Mod Act.
   CBP and the private sector must work together to identify the roles and responsibilities for those parties existing outside the current definitions, she said.
   As for the third tranche to address in any Mod Act 2.0, CBP looks to develop operational changes to replace outdated processes and embrace modern ways of doing business, Smith said.
   “Many of CBP’s procedures are designed for large containerized shipments, which is no longer representative of how international trade operates,” she said.
The U.S. customs infrastructure needs a dedicated source of funding, and ACE and “other systems” are infrastructure as “valuable and critical as our borders, roads and bridges,” Smith said.
   A dedicated funding stream would ensure that CBP’s infrastructure won’t fail, and that it will be able to evolve at the speed of commerce, she said.
   The agency also hopes to focus on its technology initiative, and is examining the capabilities of cognitive analytics, “a multilayer initiative which will allow CBP to more quickly identify not only illicit transactions, but the network of parties involved, ultimately leading to a faster response to deter fraud,” Smith said.
   Analytics tests currently under way will complement ACE cargo processing and National Targeting Center operations and make CBP Centers of Excellence and Expertise more effective, she said.
   Getting the best value for its trade dollar is the main focus of CBP’s work on resource optimization, Smith said.
   “Our analysis helps us to determine where to invest or where to adjust in order to be more effective,” she said. “We’ve worked hard to quantify the benefits of the ACE single window.”
   In fiscal 2017, Smith noted the streamlining processes CBP implemented in ACE saved over 1 million hours for the government and trade community, which the agency values at over $400 million.
   CBP is on track to either meet or surpass those figures this fiscal year, she added.
Automation of Section 321, or de minimis, entries, is at the top of CBP’s list for remaining ACE programming, Smith said.

Brian Bradley

Based in Washington, D.C., Brian covers international trade policy for American Shipper and FreightWaves. In the past, he covered nuclear defense, environmental cleanup, crime, sports, and trade at various industry and local publications.