Census ramps up for ôimminentö mandatory AES rule
The U.S. Census Bureau's Foreign Trade Division is ramping up staff and resources to help the export industry comply with the soon-to-be-published rule for mandatory use of the Automated Export System.
William Bostic Jr., chief of the Foreign Trade Division, told the Regulations and Procedures Technical Advisory Committee in Washington Tuesday that the rule is 'imminent.'
Census and the Department of Homeland Security resolved their 30-month standoff over publishing the rules in early January. Census was prepared in 2005 to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking updating the foreign trade regulations, but DHS blocked the effort after failing to gain approval to share export transaction data with foreign governments as part of its antiterrorism cooperation. Census has long maintained a policy of preserving the confidentiality of business-sensitive details from export records.
Bostic declined to go into the details of the rulemaking, such as questions about continuing post-departure filing in AES, known as Option 4, and the status of sharing export information with foreign governments. 'No comment at this point,' he said to the RPTAC members.
The Foreign Trade Division uses the data from AES to help calculate the country's trade statistics, while Customs and Border Protection uses it to target illicit exports before they leave the country.
The new AES regulations will require exporters to file shipper's export declarations a certain number of hours prior to departure depending on the transport mode. The time frames are 24 hours prior to lading for vessel shipments, four hours before wheels up for air shipments (with exceptions for nearby countries), two hours for rail and one hour for truck (or 30 minutes for pre-certified secure carriers).
The rule will go into effect 30 days after it is published in the Federal Register and be implemented within 90 days.
Census has developed a training video and plans to conduct numerous seminars and town hall meetings throughout the country once the rule is published. Bostic said emphasis will be placed along the U.S. southern border with Mexico and Puerto Rico where paper SEDs are still filed.
In addition to lingering paper SED filings, the biggest errors in export reporting remain late filings, wrong Schedule B numbers, ultimate consignee details, and inaccurate shipping weights and values. Census officials plan to focus training on these aspects as well, Bostic said.
Since last year, Census has conducted visits to 46 companies that were receiving AES compliance rates of 80 percent or less. One firm visited had a compliance rate of 10 percent.
Bostic said the visits have paid off. Forty of the companies have reached a 95 percent compliance rate within 90 days of the visits. 'We're really working with these companies. We're interested in quality data, not in being a hammer of enforcement,' he said.
Census is putting the finishing on a 'best practices' document for AES filers — both exporters and freight forwarders. The agency is also working with the Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security on a compliance program involving Export Administration Regulation-related issues, such as Export Control Classification Numbers (ECCNs), license exceptions, general licenses, and falsely classified 'no-license required' items.
On the 91st day of implementation of the mandatory AES rules, Foreign Trade Division staff will be sent to work with CBP at the ports for about a week to put a stop to any lingering paper SED filings, Bostic said.
Census has delegated authority for enforcement and the issuance of penalties, which are set at $10,000 per violation, to CBP and BIS. 'That's out of our jurisdiction,' Bostic said.
Bostic warned that if it becomes apparent that companies are ignoring the mandatory AES regulations or Census's efforts to help them comply, then the agency may have no other choice but to refer the violators to CBP and BIS.
Census believes that the mandatory AES regulations and the follow-up agency training for their implementation will be rapidly embraced by the export industry.
'Companies have been very welcoming to us,' said Dale Kelly, branch chief of the Census Foreign Trade Division, at the RPTAC meeting. 'Most of them are looking forward to the regulation. They feel like it will put all the players on a level playing field.' ' Chris Gillis