CUSTOMS AGENCIES NEED TO COOPERATE FOR AMERICAS FREE TRADE TO WORK
A cultural change is needed if customs agencies in the Americas are to
work together efficiently under a hemispheric free trade agreement.
"Whether we in Customs Administrations like it or not, we are going to
be challenged with re-examining our rules and procedures to see if we can’t expedite the
flow of hemispheric trade," said Sam Banks, deputy
commissioner of U.S. Customs at he Symposium of the Americas last Friday in Miami.
Customs officials from more than 30 countries met prior to the symposium to
discuss their role in the future Free Trade Area of the Americas.
"This could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to obtain the support of
our governments to introduce major changes to our systems, procedures and
organizations," Banks said.
Areas that American customs agencies will have to consider are uniform
processing of cargo according to international conventions, automating the handling of
trade data, and the use of risk management, which would require customs to focus on
cargoes and trade patterns that pose a threat to their countries.
Customs agencies will also have to cooperate among themselves and with
industry. U.S. Customs, for instance, signed a Mutual Assistance Agreement with Colombia
Industry groups such as the express carriers are lobbying the FTAA
members to make these changes.
"We want to see the elimination of all rate, value and size requirements
for express shipments in the Americas," said Francisco Santeiro, managing director of
global trade services for Federal Express.