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Legislative Update: Air Cargo Security, CBP Commissioner, GSP

Tuesday, March 27, 2018
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

Air Cargo Security. The House of Representatives has approved the Air Cargo Security Improvement Act (H.R. 4176), which would (1) establish an air cargo security division within the Transportation Security Administration, (2) require TSA to conduct a feasibility study and a subsequent two-year pilot program to test the expanded use of new or emerging screening technologies such as computed tomography to screen air cargo on passenger aircraft, (3) require TSA to report on actions to improve the Certified Cargo Screening Program, and (4) require a comprehensive review and security assessment of the known shipper program that recommends whether to modify or eliminate this program. As passed, the bill does not include a provision in the original bill that would have required the Department of Homeland Security to issue within six months a final rule establishing the Air Cargo Advance Screening program, which has been in pilot status for many years.

CBP Commissioner. The Senate has confirmed Kevin McAleenan to be commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. McAleenan had been acting commissioner since January 2017 and waited nearly a year to be confirmed.

Unlike recent CBP commissioners selected from law enforcement backgrounds outside the agency, McAleenan has substantial experience with both trade facilitation and enforcement from within the agency. From 2006 to 2008 he served as the area port director of Los Angeles International Airport, directing CBP’s border security operations at LAX and 17 other airport facilities. In December 2011 he was named acting assistant commissioner of CBP’s Office of Field Operations, where he led agency efforts to secure the U.S. border while expediting trade and travel at 329 ports of entry in the U.S. and 70 international locations in more than 40 countries. He became deputy commissioner on Nov. 2, 2014, serving as CBP’s chief operating officer and senior career official.

GSP. The omnibus fiscal year 2018 spending bill signed into law March 23 by President Trump includes a provision that, effective April 22, will extend the Generalized System of Preferences through Dec. 31, 2020. This extension will be retroactive to the Dec. 31, 2017, expiration of GSP, meaning importers will be able to seek refunds of duties they have paid since that date on goods that would have otherwise been eligible for preferential treatment under GSP.

The bill also requires the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to submit to Congress each year a report on efforts to ensure that GSP beneficiary developing countries are meeting the program’s eligibility criteria.

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