CBP Commissioner Kerlikowske pushes Hinojosa to lead key WCO directorate.
Much of the world aspires to the U.S. model for customs modernization, but the World Customs Organization doesn’t have someone from U.S. Customs in its leadership ranks to help administrations in other countries manage borders more efficiently and securely without bureaucratic red tape.
Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Gil Kerklikowske said Tuesday that is why he nominated Ana Hinojosa, the deputy assistant commissioner for international affairs, as a candidate to head the WCO’s Directorate of Compliance and Facilitation last month.
U.S. Customs has popularized the use of risk management techniques to check for security threats and trade violations associated with travelers and cargo crossing the border. The agency uses a layered approach, advance collection of shipping and passenger data for pre-arrival analysis, non-intrusive inspection technology, and collaboration with industry and international partners to minimize intrusions for those engaged in legal trade and travel.
CBP was the driving force behind the WCO’s adoption of the SAFE framework for supply chain security. It is also in the midst of a huge transformation initiative to speed up cargo processing and enforcement decisions. Customs officials now see themselves as contributing pro-business conditions that encourage trade and travel and make the U.S. economy more competitive. That mindset is different in many parts of the world, where customs administrations are major revenue generators and often pay little heed to the impact of their decisions, or inaction, on businesses.
“CBP has to continue to be a leader on security standards and enforcement,” Kerlikowske, who is beginning his second year at the helm of CBP, said in a speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “The WCO and industry partners have made clear how helpful we can be” in meeting the dual obligation of security and trade facilitation around the world. “But we need a stronger voice because we have that expertise and credibility,” he said.
Assisting other countries to stand up authorized economic operator programs for trusted shippers and implement modern customs techniques can save other administrations time and effort because they can learn from CBP’s successes and mistakes, the commissioner said.
The United States has not had a representative in an elected directorate position at the WCO since Commissioner Robert Bonner left office almost a decade ago, Kerlikowske pointed out.
Hinojosa, who is bilingual in Spanish, started her career as an import specialist in the legacy U.S. Customs Service. Over the years, she held numerous management positions, eventually becoming an area port director overseeing operations at two of the largest international airports, Los Angeles and Dallas-Fort Worth. She became CBP’s first female director of field operations in El Paso, Texas, on the Southwest border, responsible for 10 land border crossings and three airports. In her current role, she works closely with other U.S. government agencies to provide funding and technical training to help build the capacity of customs administrations in less developed parts of the world.
CBP’s campaign for Hinojosa includes a page on its website describing her accomplishments and a special Twitter handle @HinojosaforWCO.
During his address, the commissioner mentioned several programs being implemented to improve how CBP operates and collaborates with trade stakeholders. Accelerating the deployment of the ACE information technology system and the government-wide single window for electronically filing documentation, expansion of the Centers of Excellence and Expertise to ensure consistent post-release processing at all ports of entry, integrating trusted trader programs aligned with international norms and implementing a final rule based on the Air Cargo Advanced Screening program remain CBP priorities, he said.
CBP is also taking the lead, through the Border Interagency Executive Council, to teach other agencies within the U.S. government how to monitor imports for health and safety violations by managing risk and sharing data.
“We need to reflect the realities of your business and the world you exist in, the constant evolution of the global supply chain,” said Kerlikowske, who noted the groundwork laid by his immediate predecessors Alan Bersin, David Aguilar and Thomas Winkowski, who accomplished much despite working on a temporary basis without Senate confirmation.
Kerlikowske also said CBP needs to continue ramping up enforcement of counterfeit smuggling, collect more anti-dumping/countervailing duties, and streamline regulations.
On Thursday, CBP’s entire senior leadership will go to the agency’s advance training center in Harper’s Ferry, W.Va., for a two-day retreat aimed at further promoting cross-functional interaction that gets divisions working across traditional siloes, he said.