U.S. Customs and Border Protection has issued an interim final rule establishing the Centers of Excellence and Expertise as a permanent organizational component of the agency and transitioning certain additional trade functions to the Centers. The rule amends the CBP regulations on an interim basis effective Jan. 19 to implement this organizational change by:
- defining the Center and Center directors;
- amending the definition for port directors to distinguish their functions from those of the Center directors;
- identifying the Center management offices;
- explaining the process by which importers will be assigned to Centers;
- providing the importer with an appeals process for its Center assignment;
- identifying the regulatory functions that will be transitioned from the port directors to the Center directors and those that will be jointly carried out by the port directors and the Center directors; and
- providing clarification in applicable regulations that payments and documents may continue to be submitted at the ports of entry or electronically.
Assignment of Importers. The rule indicates that importers will generally be assigned to an industry category administered by a specific Center based on the tariff classification in the HTSUS of the predominant number of goods imported. The list of HTSUS numbers that will be used by CBP for the importer’s placement in a Center is the same list of numbers that are referenced in the definition for Centers.
Factors that may cause CBP to place an importer in a Center not based on the tariff classification of the predominant number of goods imported include the importer’s associated business practices within an industry, the intended use of the predominant number of goods imported, or the high relative value of goods imported. Importers may appeal their Center assignment at any time by submitting a written appeal to CBP’s Office of Field Operations.
Brokers acting as the importer of record will have their entry summary processed by the Center relating to the predominant HTSUS number for the entry summary since brokers’ business models do not necessarily align within a particular industry sector.
Trade Functions Transitioned to CEEs. The rule amends certain regulations to transition to the Center directors a variety of post-release trade functions that are currently handled by the port directors, including decisions and processing related to entry summaries; decisions and processing related to all types of protests; suspension and extension of liquidations; decisions and processing concerning free trade agreements and duty preference programs; decisions concerning warehouse withdrawals wherein the goods are entered into the commerce of the U.S.; all functions and decisions concerning country of origin marking issues; functions concerning informal entries; and classification and appraisement of merchandise, including valuation.
Joint Authority. The rule amends certain regulations to identify the circumstances where the port directors and the Center directors will have joint authority. For example, Section 141.56(a) is being amended to note that CBP may accept, either at the port of entry or electronically, one entry summary for consumption or for warehouse for merchandise covered by multiple entries for immediate transportation, subject to the requirements of Section 142.17(a), provided the merchandise covered by each immediate transportation entry is released at the port of destination under a separate entry in accordance with Section 142.3.
The reference to “port directors” is being removed and replaced with “CBP” because the authority to accept the entry summary will continue to reside with the personnel working for the port directors and will also be extended to the personnel working for the Center directors.
Importers will continue to have the ability to submit the documentation at the port or electronically and this ability is merely being reflected in the regulation. In the example above, if the entry summary were submitted electronically to CBP it would be internally routed to the appropriate Center. As a second example, the port director and Center director personnel will have joint authority for all functions involving sampling and redelivery requests. CBP notes that while the redelivery notices may be sent out by either personnel working for the port director or the Center director, the resolution of marking issues will be the sole authority of the Center directors.
The regulations are also being amended to provide that port directors and Center directors will have joint authority to collect payments. CBP states that these amendments do not affect the public’s responsibility to continue to submit payments using the same methods of payment that are prescribed in the regulations today, but merely extend the authority to accept payments to Center directors as well. For example, Section 24.2 is being amended to include a reference to Center directors as persons authorized to receive customs collections.
Comments on the interim final rule may be submitted by Jan. 19.