WCO seeks ôconstructive engagementö on 100% scanning
The World Customs Organization's leadership said it plans to meet with U.S. lawmakers in the upcoming weeks and months to convince them to at least soften their stance on recently passed legislation calling for 100 percent cargo inspection by July 2012.
'No one within the WCO is talking about beating up on the U.S.
Congress,' said Michael Schmitz, the Brussels-based organization's director of compliance and facilitation, who will meet with staff members of both the House and Senate in Washington next week. 'We just want to initiate a constructive engagement.'
In particular, the WCO hopes to show U.S. lawmakers that the risk management benefits outlined in post-Sept. 11, 2001 cargo security programs, such as the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Trade in the United States and the recently adopted WCO SAFE Framework of Standards to Secure and Facilitate Trade, are sufficient for protecting the international supply chain from terrorist and related criminal activities, without disrupting legitimate trade.
'Even if (100 percent scanning would be) cost neutral, risk management is still most effective,' Schmitz told customs administration and industry attendees at a WCO meeting in Brussels today.
Before the passage of the 100 percent scanning legislation, part of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007, the WCO attempted to convince U.S. lawmakers through letters and discussions to reconsider their action.
'We saw it coming for a long time,' said WCO Secretary General Michel Danet. 'We were unable to convince the American political world otherwise.'
The WCO plans to tap its large membership, of which 145 customs administrations have already agreed to implement the WCO SAFE Framework, for their concerns about the 100 percent scanning legislation. It has also asked its Private Sector Consultative Group, which includes many large global shippers and trade associations, to do the same. During a Policy Commission meeting in Almaty, Kazakhstan, last week, the WCO approved a resolution to move forward with its effort to collect these comments, including the commissioning of a study with the University of Le Havre to determine the supply chain costs of implementing a 100 percent inspection regime.
'I think it's interesting that the WCO is lobbying Congress in favor of a risk management approach, which favors the commercial sector,' said David Hesketh, currently on a two-year secondment to the private sector and soon returning to U.K. Customs, in an interview.
'There was a time not long ago when customs would have favored 100 percent examination,' he added. 'This is a real demonstration of customs-trade partnership.'
Schmitz said the WCO has asked members of Congress to be included in possible hearings on 100 percent scanning in April. He has also requested meetings with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Department of Homeland Security, and the Government Accountability Office.
However, Danet warned the WCO members that it could ultimately be the case that the organization may have to reconcile its SAFE Framework with the U.S. law for 100 percent scanning. 'It's complicated, it's difficult, but it's an avenue we should explore,'
Michael Mullen, a CBP assistant commissioner, tried to assure the WCO meeting attendees that risk-based management to trade control would not be tossed out by the 100 percent scanning law, no matter what form it ultimately takes.
'The United States is still fully committed to a risk management approach to supply chain security,' Mullen said. 'We know that strategy works for us and the private sector.'
He explained that the images required from the 100 percent scanning law would only be considered a 'snapshot' in the life of a shipment and would be deployed as simply another 'layer' in CBP's risk management program. ' Chris Gillis