U.S., EU mutual recognition of C-TPAT, AEO programs still faces hurdles
While U.S. Customs and European Commission representatives say great strides have been made toward mutual recognition of each other’s trusted shipper supply chain programs, the U.S. program’s lack of inclusion of exports remains a significant sticking point.
Both the United States and European Union hope to conclude a mutual recognition agreement by mid-2009, so that companies enrolled in either U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism or the EU’s Authorized Economic Operator programs will receive reciprocal fast-lane customs clearance.
“The U.S. will have to address exports,” said Michael Meyer, who oversees supply chain security matters at the EC, to attendees of a World Customs Organization meeting in Brussels this week.
C-TPAT is focused on supply chain security activities related cargo bound for the United States.
Michael Mullen, assistant commissioner in charge of CBP’s Office of International Affairs and Trade Relations, said mutual recognition should be reached despite this difference between the two programs. He said CBP’s C-TPAT team reviews supply chains “across the board, including exports.” It may be a case that CBP “may add some points” to overcome this mutual recognition concern, Mullen said.
The different approach to exports is “a huge concern” between the United States and EC, warned one former customs official familiar with the mutual recognition talks.
Customs officials at the WCO meeting noted other potentially significant differences and unanswered questions between C-TPAT and AEO, such as the U.S. reaction to whether one European state’s acceptance of an AEO applicant is enough to cover that applicant’s business for all of Europe. In addition, the EU has no intention of dispatching its own customs officers to U.S. ports, while CBP maintains small details in major European ports for its Container Security Initiative.
Another issue is that C-TPAT has been in operation between CBP and the industry for five years, whereas the EU will launch its AEO program, starting Jan. 1. Some European customs officials at the WCO meeting in Brussels on Dec. 11-12 are already concerned about the low turnout so far for volunteers in key European countries, such as the United Kingdom, Germany and France, to kick off the widely touted AEO program.
Both sides remain optimistic that mutual recognition will be reached by 2009.
Meyers said the EC has “political pressure” on its side to get it done and Mullen referred to the differences between the two programs as “issues to clarify.”
“The main benefit of mutual recognition is the goal of applying to one program and being accepted by other programs,” Mullen said. He added that mutual recognition of security programs should lead to greater benefits for industry through a “simple, more harmonized trade environment.” ' Chris Gillis