U.S. works to harmonize trusted trader programs
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is making progress with several countries in extending reciprocal fast-lane customs clearance for shippers that meet joint security standards, an agency official said last week.
The World Customs Organization’s global framework of security and trade facilitation guidelines encourages customs agencies to establish cargo security partnerships for industry with the goal that membership in one program would qualify for customs benefits in another country if their standards align.
The United States and several other countries are trying to mutually recognize their supply chain security programs so companies can be certified by either party. The U.S. Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism is the benchmark for these programs. Importers that follow approved plans for tightening controls on their shipments from the point of origin and during transit can lower inspection levels and improve the predictability of their cargo.
CBP begins the process with a side-by-side comparison of C-TPAT and other Authorized Economic Operator programs, in WCO parlance, to see if they are similar on paper. It follows up by conducting joint validations to see how the other country is implementing its program as well as how it inspects shipments. If the programs are compatible, CBP will sign a mutual recognition agreement and then the two sides will work out technical implementation details such as what type of information to exchange and what information technology platforms to use.
The first bilateral example of mutual recognition occurred last summer between the United States and New Zealand. That collaboration is in the final phase of implementation, according to C-TPAT Director Bradd Skinner.
Under the arrangement, New Zealand Customs verifies that companies participating in its Secure Exports Scheme have met standards for securely packing containers and shares the results with CBP, which now does not have to send supply chain security specialists to New Zealand to validate the supplier because it is confident in the security audits by its counterpart there.
Jordan’s “Golden List” program is in the second phase of testing, which could lead to a mutual recognition agreement this summer, Skinner said at the quarterly meeting of the Commercial Operations Advisory Committee in Tucson, Ariz., last week. CBP officials had said they were on the cusp of an agreement last June.
CBP has witnessed three Canada Border Services Agency validations and will soon conduct its own supply chain reviews with Canadian observers as part of the second phase of the recognition process, Skinner said. Canada’s program is called Partners in Protection.
The C-TPAT Office has completed its review of the European Union’s AEO program and has begun reviewing details of industry partnership programs in Japan, Australia and Singapore, he said. U.S. and EU leaders have set 2009 as the deadline for establishing joint security standards.
The EU’s AEO program went into force on Jan. 1 and CBP plans to observe how European customs agencies audit companies.
Skinner said CBP has also begun preliminary discussions with Mexico on coordinating supply chain security. Last summer the United States and Mexico agreed to expand their customs cooperation.
Meanwhile, the agency is sharing best practices for establishing trusted trader programs with countries such as Brazil, Ghana and Kenya, Skinner said. Areas of advice include how to create minimum security standards, incentives for industry participation, and validation criteria. ' Eric Kulisch