Even an earthquake and a hurricane didn’t sway U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Alan D. Bersin from holding two days of meetings with members of the trade community this week.
The series of meetings held Aug. 30-31 gave CBP senior leaders an opportunity to collaborate with key industry members and trade associations on issues affecting U.S. economic competitiveness and job creation, global supply chain security and the development of new approaches to CBP processes aimed at driving down transaction costs.
“We want to talk about our textile enforcement strategy,” said Julia Hughes, president of the United States Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel, one of the groups that participated during the first day of roundtable discussions. USA-ITA has more than two hundred member companies including apparel manufacturers, importers, and customs brokers.
“Our members are the good actors. They’re the people who spend millions of dollars trying to make sure that they meet the highest standards,” said Hughes. “How can we move forward to recognize more of the good actors, and how can we help you focus your efforts on the bad guys? What they do hurts our member companies as much as it hurts the domestic industry.”
Bersin, who was joined by CBP’s senior staff, listened intently and concurred. “We’re trying to identify and target problem shippers and problem brokers, “he said.
Hughes also expressed the industry’s desire to be part of new CBP programs such as the Centers of Excellence and Expertise, which will provide a central point of contact for answering inquiries and resolving industry-related issues. A pilot with the pharmaceutical and electronics industries was launched in November 2010.
“The technical nature of so many of the rules in the textile and apparel sector means we’re ripe to have that kind of partnership with you,” Hughes said, explaining that the association’s members are looking for how they can do more training, obtain more information and ensure that even highly compliant companies understand all the rules the same way that CBP understands the rules.
“What I’d like to see at the Center of Excellence and Expertise is joint training, where CBP and the trade are working together,” said Leigh Schmid, senior vice president of global trade compliance for Limited Brands. “Sometimes we might lead a training session on production and other times we could be listening to an interpretation of the rules. It would give CBP a chance to know who the importers are and how we operate.”
Although the Centers of Excellence and Expertise pilot involved the pharmaceutical industry, CBP did glean ideas from other industries,” said Brenda Smith, the executive director of trade policy and programs for CBP’s Office of International Trade. “Some of the best practices that we incorporated into the pilot came from the textile group – sharing of information, strong relationships, use of analytical and account management skills. We’d like to formalize that.”
Two new Centers of Excellence and Expertise are on schedule to be permanently established for the pharmaceutical and electronics industries this October.
During the two days of meetings, Bersin hosted a variety of other trade groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, International Trade Surety Association, Business Alliance for Customs Modernization, American Trucking Association and Airports Council International-North America.