Trade facilitation programs, CTPAT, in-bond shipments, and export manifests were among the topics on which progress was reported at a recent meeting of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Commercial Customs Operations Advisory Committee.

COAC’s Secure Trade Lanes Subcommittee has five active working groups focused on enhancing trade partnership programs, improving the management of imports and exports, deploying authentication technologies to reduce supply chain barriers, and updating the in-bond process.

Trade facilitation. The subcommittee’s Cross-Border Recognition Working Group has offered the following three recommendations to further streamline cross-border movements of legitimate trade.

- CBP should continue working to align the program requirements for CTPAT and Mexico’s Authorized Economic Operator program with an eye toward harmonizing the AEO certification, validation, and revalidation processes. Deadlines and performance measures should be developed for this work and the U.S. should offer assistance and resources to help Mexico ensure it has enough personnel to run its AEO program.

- CBP should work with other U.S. regulatory agencies and Mexican authorities to evaluate a mutual recognition initiative for agriculture products that increases efficiency and reduces redundant inspections at the border. This agreement would expand on the joint inspection program that allows inspections to take place at select inland locations and explore the use of high-security seals and tracking devices.

-  CBP should address emerging market conditions through the enhanced use of data integration, technology, transparency, and communication while further developing the AEO program. Work would include developing requirements (defining sectors, regions, supply chain requirements, etc.), designing communication and data sharing procedures (e.g., IT systems), building trust through the current pilot program (or new ones) to certify a complete logistics chain on both sides of the border (focusing on key sectors and ports), and designing operational and administrative incentives.

CTPAT. In August 2022 CBP announced the addition of six new requirements for participants in the CTPAT Trade Compliance program regarding the prevention of forced labor within supply chains, and in November 2022 CBP set forth three benefits for complying with these requirements. Proposals for additional benefits are under consideration by the subcommittee’s Trade Partnership and Engagement Working Group, with specific recommendations expected in the future.

In-bond. Following regulatory changes issued in September 2017, CBP began mandating the electronic filing and reporting of in-bond arrival, exportation, and diversion in July 2019. However, there remain concerns within the trade community over issues such as the six-digit HTSUS number reporting requirement, modernizing and standardizing the air in-bond regulations, and the legal transfer of liability among carriers when in-bond shipment possession changes to the succeeding carrier.

To further improve in-bond processes, the subcommittee’s In-Bond Working Group has offered the following recommendations.

- CBP should extend from 30 days to 60 days the maximum in-transit time for all merchandise to be transported in-bond.

- CBP should allow electronic requests for an extension of in-transit time (currently they must be submitted in writing to the port director at the port of destination or exportation).

- CBP should communicate all in-bond hold messages in real-time via push messaging (currently traders must proactively query each master bill of lading multiple times during the life of the shipment to check for a hold status).

Electronic manifests. The subcommittee’s Export Modernization Working Group is helping CBP develop new regulations that will mandate the use of electronic export manifests for all modes of transportation. CBP is currently testing the electronic filing of export manifest data for vessel and rail cargo and said at the COAC meeting that it is continuing to add test participants and seeing interest in expanding the test to other carriers and modes of transportation. The working group is continuing efforts to determine partner government agency needs for data elements that may need to be captured in outbound truck manifests.

The working group also recommended that CBP evaluate the development of a process to connect lowest level house bill of lading information to the exporting carrier’s manifest for multi-modal shipments exported from the U.S. via land borders for subsequent departure from non-U.S. air/seaports to foreign destinations.

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