Expanded Roles for Centers of Excellence and Expertise Under Discussion
The trade community and U.S. Customs and Border Protection are actively discussing additional roles that CBP’s Centers of Excellence and Expertise could assume.
Four centers have already reached full operability through the transfer of all post-release trade functions and the permanent transition of import specialist personnel: Apparel, Footwear and Textiles, managed out of San Francisco; Electronics, managed out of Los Angeles; Petroleum, Natural Gas and Minerals, managed out of Houston; and Pharmaceuticals, Health and Chemicals, managed out of New York. The remaining six centers are expected to reach full implementation by this June: Agriculture and Prepared Products, managed out of Miami; Automotive and Aerospace, managed out of Detroit; Base Metals, managed out of Chicago; Consumer Products and Mass Merchandising, managed out of Atlanta; Industrial and Manufacturing Materials, managed out of Buffalo; and Machinery, managed out of Laredo.
Trade functions and activities over which the center director at the four operational centers may exercise authority include entry and entry summary processing; decisions and activities regarding packing, stamping, country of origin marking, rules of origin, trademarks, copyrights, bonds, classification, appraisement, and the sampling of merchandise; and processing of liquidations, protests, petitions, recordkeeping, and financial and accounting matters. On the other hand, port directors retain singular authority over those matters pertaining to the control, movement, examination and release of cargo; drawback; and fines, penalties and forfeitures. Port directors and the directors of operational centers both have the authority to demand redelivery of cargo or demand single transaction bonds when necessary to ensure safety and security and protect the revenue. Both also have the authority to take samples of merchandise as needed. Revenue collections can be accepted by port of entry staff and/or center personnel on behalf of CBP.
However, both CBP and the trade community are looking at ways to expand the centers to facilitate enforcement measures such as holds, examinations and detentions; FP&F measures such as seizures, liquidated damages and penalties; and regulations and rulings measures such as binding rulings, internal advice, protests and petitions. In addition, trade facilitation measures such as reconciliation, drawback, foreign-trade zone and other processes could be centralized and common benefits could be adopted for trusted trader accounts.
The two sides also see an enhanced role for the centers in promoting uniform treatment and application of trade policies and processes and uniform deployment of trade strategies with an industry focus and account-based approach as the centers mature. Centers could also enhance CBP’s interactions with other government agencies and increase its communication with, and dissemination of informed compliance information and best practices to, the trade community. Ideas being considered include encouraging regular communication and interaction (e.g., webinars or seminars) between the centers and their accounts and increasing on-boarding information to importers.
A working group within CBP’s Advisory Committee on Commercial Operations is expecting to make formal recommendations in April.