CUSTOMS CRITICIZED FOR LEAVING CONGRESS OUT OF LOOP ON MANIFEST RULING
U.S Customs' ruling calling for filing of cargo manifests prior to loading overseas was issued too quickly and without proper dialogue with Congress, other government agencies and trade, said Carl Bentzel, senior counsel to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.
“It was a shocking surprise,” Bentzel said of Customs’ proposed rule. “In some respects, it wasn’t the best way to approach something.”
Even more surprising was that the agency proposed a port security ruling without discussing the issue with the congressional committees specifically charged with drafting port security legislation, said Bentzel, speaking at a conference of the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America in Washington Monday.
Bentzel and other congressional staffers were critical of the agency’s desire to use manifests as part of a security measure, adding that Customs should consider other means to detect possible security threats. One staffer likened such a move as “putting new wine into old bottles,” and that such a method may not be well-suited to ensure border and port security in the war against terrorism.
Gathering information from cargo manifests does not go far enough into the supply chain to ensure security, and would impede the flow of trade, said Ken Bargteil, NCBFAA Customs committee chairman. “It interferes with commerce, and with the traditional means of doing business,” he said.
Bargteil has authored and is distributing to congressmen a white paper behalf of NCBFAA, that he said would better address supply chain and port security.
Harvey Monk, chief of the Foreign Trade Division of the U.S. Department of Commerce, said Customs in its flurry of rulings over the past few months has disintegrated working relations between other government agencies — particularly the State and Commerce departments. Such actions would hurt government and industry in facilitating legitimate trade and monitoring of security, Monk said.
“We can’t do it if we’ve got one partner who is sliding around, doing some other things,” Monk said.