Background

Under a recently-signed memorandum of agreement the departments of Commerce and Homeland Security will collaborate to help U.S. businesses expand their international e-commerce operations and better understand policies and procedures that impact e-commerce. They will also work to identify and eliminate tariff and non-tariff barriers to e-commerce, especially those that impede the ability of small and medium-sized enterprises to comply with customs laws and regulations. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross noted that with worldwide retail e-commerce sales expected to top $2.4 trillion by 2018, up 26 percent from 2016, “having the infrastructure in place to help U.S. companies compete for these e-commerce sales is crucial to our nation’s position in the global marketplace.”

The aims of the five-year MOA include the following.

- develop and implement systemic policies in support of a viable, integrated, legitimate e-commerce-based supply chain infrastructure

- promote public-private dialogue and consensus on e-commerce-related priorities, policies, and programs

- leverage relationships with industry stakeholders to promote compliance with U.S. trade laws in the e-commerce environment

- identify and seek to address international cross-border capacity and operating constraints and other factors relating to e-commerce

- attempt to measure e-commerce-based supply chain and goods movement that can be used in economic analyses to inform regulatory and policy decisions

- explore opportunities to share relevant statistical trade data through existing mechanisms to facilitate analysis of cross-border flows of goods and services

To achieve these objectives the two departments plan to take a number of actions to the extent that funding and other resources permit. They will meet with U.S. and foreign government officials to discuss ways to improve and streamline cross-border processes as they pertain to e-commerce; e.g., regulatory and programmatic changes, information exchange, and enforcement collaboration. They will also host outreach events for e-commerce platforms and businesses that rely on them to highlight e-commerce best practices and promote compliance with U.S. trade laws in the e-commerce environment. In addition, there will be efforts to jointly develop and support provisions in U.S. free trade agreement negotiations that facilitate and promote a legitimate e-commerce supply chain; e.g., automated customs clearance processes, enhanced customs-to-customs cooperation, intellectual property rights protection and enforcement, and support for e-commerce services.

Click here for more information on global growth in e-commerce and here for a recent article on efforts to facilitate and regulate e-commerce. Click here for an ST&R webinar on e-commerce compliance challenges and business opportunities.

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