• ITVI.USA
    15,466.420
    -70.120
    -0.5%
  • OTLT.USA
    2.742
    -0.012
    -0.4%
  • OTRI.USA
    20.530
    0.040
    0.2%
  • OTVI.USA
    15,439.080
    -68.090
    -0.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    3.300
    0.000
    0%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    3.140
    0.190
    6.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.590
    0.150
    10.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    3.330
    0.020
    0.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    2.170
    0.020
    0.9%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    4.080
    0.130
    3.3%
  • WAIT.USA
    125.000
    -1.000
    -0.8%
  • ITVI.USA
    15,466.420
    -70.120
    -0.5%
  • OTLT.USA
    2.742
    -0.012
    -0.4%
  • OTRI.USA
    20.530
    0.040
    0.2%
  • OTVI.USA
    15,439.080
    -68.090
    -0.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    3.300
    0.000
    0%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    3.140
    0.190
    6.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.590
    0.150
    10.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    3.330
    0.020
    0.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    2.170
    0.020
    0.9%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    4.080
    0.130
    3.3%
  • WAIT.USA
    125.000
    -1.000
    -0.8%
American Shipper

Commentary: CBP’s new marching orders

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is ready to follow through on President Trump’s directives to whittle down the number of regulations on the books, but CBP Acting Commissioner Kevin McAleenan assured that facilitating trade flows will remain a priority.

   Since President Donald Trump entered office, his administration has taken a hard line on immigration, attempting to ban immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries before the courts blocked the order on constitutional grounds, and expanding the segment of illegal immigrants eligible for deportation.
   At the tip of the spear is U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which is responsible for managing lawful entry and exit at airports, seaports and land checkpoints, as well as providing border security between ports of entry.
   Trump officials have also shown a jaundiced eye toward trade, intimating that cracking down on violations of trade law will be part of their efforts to protect domestic businesses from cheating by international competitors.
   Here, too, CBP will take the point.
   And the agency is also ready to follow through on Trump directives to whittle down the number of regulations on the books, which the president and others say act as a massive drag on business growth.
   At the Commercial Operations Advisory Committee’s (COAC) first meeting of 2017, Acting Commissioner Kevin McAleenan highlighted the new enforcement agenda, but also stressed that facilitating trade flows will remain a priority.
   Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and CBP officials have briefed new DHS Secretary John Kelly about trade efforts, and met with the new National Trade Council, led by Peter Navarro, in the White House. Discussions with the White House, Commerce Department and U.S. Trade Representative, are designed to make sure DHS’s trade law enforcement experts are included on the front end of any future trade negotiations so negotiators are aware of implementation challenges and realities.
   “It’s very clear to me that [Kelly] is going to be a big supporter of what we’re doing here…in partnership with the trade community,” McAleenan reassured industry participants at the COAC gathering. “It looks like there is every sign that the pace and momentum and focus on trade will continue, which is good news for all of us,” said Christa Brzozowski, DHS deputy assistant secretary for trade policy, foreign investment and transport security. “We see a particular emphasis on the need for promoting and encouraging economic growth. So we take that to mean not only the strong enforcement of our trade laws, but a continued push to facilitate trade and keep cross-border trade moving.”
   The Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center remains the primary enforcement asset for combatting the importation of counterfeit and substandard goods, and illegal trade practices, according to Daniel Ragsdale, the deputy director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Prior to the Super Bowl, for example, the multi-agency task force rolled up on flea markets, retail outlets and street vendors to seize more than 260,000 pieces of fake sports memorabilia worth an estimated $20 million, leading to 56 arrests and 50 convictions.
   Ragsdale said ICE also is collaborating with CBP to ramp up enforcement of e-commerce shipments, which tend to fly under the radar compared to large consolidated shipments.
   “Operation in our sites, begun in 2010 to seize online domain names as a way to stop the online sale of pirated and counterfeit goods, is having limited success because of the ease with which criminals can set up new websites, and needs to be supplemented with better screening of e-commerce shipments,” he said.
   Meanwhile, President Trump has made no secret of his desire to shrink the size and reach of government, including through an executive order that for every new regulation proposed, agencies must eliminate two existing rules. And he has ordered every agency to hire a regulatory reform officer.
   How that will be achieved in reality, given the political interests and legal steps involved, is unclear, but officials from DHS and the Treasury Department (which has a role in in the revenue side of Customs) said they are looking for opportunities to streamline and simplify regulations, particularly those associated with cross-border trade.
   Timothy Skud, the deputy assistant secretary for tax, trade and tariff policy at Treasury, asked COAC and individual members for recommendations on regulations that could be eliminated, in part or in whole.
   The message of enforcement balanced with appreciation for reducing regulatory friction at the border is encouraging for the trade community. But any optimism should be leavened by caution.
   No doubt there is room for the U.S. government to step up enforcement of existing trade laws and challenge other nations’ trade restrictions through the World Trade Organization legal process. Policymakers have often lacked the political will to legitimately protectAmerican firms from anti-competitive practices in international markets, perhaps out of fear of upsetting trade partners.
   However, such an approach differs from using trade law to block imports as a way to reduce the trade deficit, which is a potential concern in the current environment.
   An administration that rushed out with a heavy-handed and poorly-planned travel ban ostensibly in the name of security, wants to build a massive wall on the Mexican border that experts say will be ineffective and undermine America’s open-market advantage, and wants to rip apart free trade agreements and start over with bilateral deals could easily overstep in the trade arena, especially when it comes to supply chain security.
   Those moves did not exemplify nuanced thinking about the complex and interconnected nature of the world economy, nor the use of the risk-management principles that have guided DHS and CBP’s strategy for more than a dozen years when it comes to managing legitimate trade and security threats.

  Eric Kulisch is Trade and Transportation Editor of American Shipper. He can be reached by email at ekulisch@shippers.com.

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