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Practice Areas

CBP Expands, Modifies Test of Centers of Excellence and Expertise

Thursday, April 04, 2013
By Shawn McCausland
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has announced an expansion and modification of a general test concerning its Centers of Excellence and Expertise, which aim to facilitate the entry of merchandise imported by companies within certain industries. A notice concerning this test, including the application process and eligibility and selection criteria, is available in the April 4 Federal Register.

CBP’s goal is to incrementally transition the operational trade functions that traditionally reside with the ports of entry until they reside entirely with the CEEs. By focusing on industry-specific issues and providing tailored support for participating importers, CBP is seeking to facilitate trade, reduce transaction costs, increase compliance with applicable import laws, and achieve uniformity of treatment at ports of entry. CBP believes that providing broad decision-making authority to the CEEs for entry processing issues will better enable them to achieve these goals and is conducting the ongoing CEE test to determine if that is true.

Addition of Six CEEs. The test began in fall 2012 with the CEEs for electronics (Long Beach); pharmaceuticals, health and chemicals (New York City); automotive and aerospace (Detroit); and petroleum, natural gas and minerals (Houston). CBP is now expanding the test to include the CEEs for agriculture and prepared products (Miami); apparel, footwear and textiles (San Francisco); base metals (Chicago); consumer products and mass merchandising (Atlanta); industrial and manufacturing materials (Buffalo); and machinery (Laredo). CBP states that applications for participation in the base metals, industrial and manufacturing materials, and machinery CEEs may be submitted beginning April 4 and that the selection of initial test participants will begin no later than May 6. For the other new CEEs (agriculture and prepared products; apparel, footwear and textiles; and consumer products and mass merchandising), applications may be submitted beginning June 3 and initial test participants will be selected beginning no later than July 3. The test for the six new CEEs is intended to last three years from July 3 and the timeline for the four existing CEEs will be changed to match.

Expansion of CEE Authority. CBP is maintaining for the four existing CEEs and extending to the six new CEEs as of April 4 a waiver of certain regulations that provides CEE directors with decision-making authority currently reserved for port directors. Specifically, when participants file an entry in a port the required entry documents will be routed to the CEE assigned to that importer and certain revenue-related functions, including the following, will be performed by the applicable CEE director instead of the port director.

- determinations, notifications and processing concerning duty refund claims based on 19 USC 1520(d) - requests for computed value information - waivers of invoice requirements - determinations concerning the time of submission for all entry summaries and estimated duties - issuance of all Requests for Information (CBP Form 28) - issuance of all Notices of Action (CBP Form 29) - notification and processing concerning any commingling of merchandise - processing of requests for application of the computed value method - extension and suspension of liquidation - reviewing and correcting for errors in transactions - reviewing and acting on protests

CBP is also newly waiving for all ten CEEs subparts Q, R, S and T of Part 10 of its regulations to the extent necessary to allow CEE directors make decisions otherwise designated for port directors with respect to the U.S. free trade agreements with Peru, South Korea, Colombia and Panama.

CBP continues to state that the following determinations do not require a waiver of regulations but would usually be made by port directors and will be made by the directors of all ten CEEs under this test: performing all entry summary reviews and verifications, reviewing and processing of post-entry amendments and post-summary corrections, and fixing the final appraisement, classification and duty rate of merchandise.

Change on Prior Disclosures. CBP is rescinding its previous requirement that CEE test participants file any prior disclosures with their designated CEE rather than at the port of entry of the violation and instead is allowing such disclosures to be filed at either location.

Processes Changed for Test Participants. The following changes in processes will apply to test participants in all ten CEEs effective on their acceptance into the test and CBP transitioning such processing to the respective CEE.

- requests for entry cancellations must be submitted electronically to the CEE - Census resolution processes will be handled by the CEE, so rejected ACS entry summaries must be electronically transmitted to the CEE’s email address unless other arrangements have been made with the CEE to resolve Census issues - timely responses to Requests for Information (CBP Form 28) and Notices of Action (CBP Form 29) must be sent directly to the CEE - requests for internal advice must be submitted electronically to the CEE for further coordination with the Office of International Trade, Regulations and Rulings - protests must be filed via the electronic protest module in ACS (including a note in the filing that designates the CEE team) or submitted electronically on a scanned copy of the CBP Form 19 with all supporting documents to the CEE via the ACE Portal or the CEE’s email address

Processes Remaining Unchanged. The following processes will remain unchanged for test participants with respect to all ten CEEs.

- quota entry summaries will continue to be processed by the ports of entry - the bulletin notice of liquidation (CBP Form 4333) will continue to be posted at the ports of entry - revenue collection and the resolution of discrepancies in the amount of monies presented will remain with the ports of entry - decisions on requests for further review and requests to void the denial of protests will continue to be issued by Regulations and Rulings, Office of International Trade - entry filers must continue to file Electronic Invoice Program and Remote Location Filing entry summaries as usual in the Automated Commercial System or the Automated Commercial Environment - entry filers must continue to submit entry summaries through ACS or ACE and will not be required to change the respective port of entry

Test Rules. CBP states that the broad decision-making authority provided to the CEEs and the new processes for entry filers outlined above will apply only to participants in the test and that port directors will continue to make these decisions for all other importers. Decisions made by a CEE that are within the authority granted under this test will govern the transactions to which they pertain, and test participants may not seek to have such decisions referred to a port director or another CEE director.

For efficiency and trade facilitation, all consumption entries filed before and during participation in the test, except for antidumping and countervailing duty entries, will be processed by the designated CEE regardless of the commodity listed on the entry line upon transition of processing as set forth in the CEE guidelines. These entries will continue to be processed by the CEE even if the test participant voluntarily withdraws. Similarly, regardless of whether a protestable decision was made by a port director or a CEE director, any protests filed after participation in the test commences will be processed and decided upon by the CEE director, and the processing and decision-making authority for these protests will remain with the CEE director even if the test participant voluntarily withdraws.

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