A working group recently formed within U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Advisory Committee on Commercial Operations has begun work on the concept of a single window for the submission of trade data to the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

A vision statement finalized by the group, which consists of importers, filers, software vendors, Canadian and Mexican trade partners, and CBP representatives, describes a North American Single Window through which importers, exporters and relevant supply chain parties would be able to provide all import and export information required by the Canadian, Mexican and U.S. customs services and associated departments or government agencies responsible for establishing border-related decisions and regulating goods crossing the borders. Simplified data sets, timely information assessment and streamlined processing would be enabled through compatible regulatory requirements, government-to-industry partnership program requirements (through mutual recognition arrangements) and data definitions, thereby advancing an account-based whole-of-government and whole-of-region approach that meets shared responsibilities for risk-based trade facilitation and enforcement.

The group believes such a system could help increase regional trade and economic growth by aligning and simplifying import and export reporting processes and could enhance national and regional security by facilitating advance data reporting and information sharing. Other benefits could include minimizing the requirement for paper forms, promoting transparency and process predictability, and facilitating trade requirement compliance and enforcement.

Initial discussions suggest that the process of developing a common single window would be easier between the U.S. and Canada, where there are many similarities in the way that cargo data is gathered and processed in advance of arrival and how summary and payment is filed after arrival. The working group notes that in Mexico the full data set and payment are provided along with the arrival of cargo, which is significantly different from both Canada and the U.S.

There are also differences among the three NAFTA partners with respect to who is authorized to provide trade data. The working group notes that in both the U.S. and Canada manifest data can be provided by seemingly anyone but the carrier is ultimately responsible. Entry data into the U.S. must be provided by either an importer or a U.S.-based customs broker, and the importer is held responsible for the correctness of the data. In Canada there appears to be no clear definition of who can provide entry data but the importer is responsible for its correctness. Mexico’s requirements are seemingly even more restrictive than those of the U.S., the group adds, in that the broker must be physically located in the area of the importation and is responsible for the correctness of the data.

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