Vandegrift Blog: 21st Century Customs Framework by Janet Labuda

Last Friday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officially announced the kickoff of the 21st Century Customs Framework at a hearing attended by over 1,000 participants. This Framework, which is focusing on six key objectives, is designed to further modernize various aspects of CBP’s trade mission. These six aspects are:

  1. Self-funded Customs infrastructures to ensure optimum ACE operations and enhancement;

  2. Making use of cutting edge technology;

  3. Data access and sharing—better use of the vast amount of data that is collected;

  4. Emerging roles in the global supply chain such as the explosion of e-commerce transactions where the downstream consumer becomes the importer;

  5. Intelligent enforcement; and

  6. Trade processes—how CBP is conducting business.

The all-day hearing featured a number of speakers, from all segments of the trade community, who were asked to provide 5 minutes of discussion on five of the six focal points. In addition to individual companies, representatives from the American Apparel and Footwear Association, the Footwear Distributors and Retailers Association, the American Association of Exporters and Importers, the National Retailers Federation and the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association spoke on behalf of their constituents. These trade representatives spoke to a panel of government officials from CBP, the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Homeland Security and Treasury, and the International Trade Commission.

In general, the invited speakers agreed that the use of state of the art technologies was important, but that regulations and operations must keep pace. Additionally, the use of technologies like the distributive ledger/block-chain, machine learning, and artificial intelligence must be cost effective as well as deliver the intended goals of securing the supply chain and enhancing trade facilitation.

Other comments included leveraging the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE), reassessing the effectiveness of using the Automated Broker Interface in its current state, data authentication, continued partnership, co-testing through proof of concept, enhancing wireless networks, achieving the proper balance between data collection and use, to name a few. The panel also was reminded that the licensed Customs House Broker is a force multiplier and the use of brokers will enable enhanced compliance.

While very little emphasis was placed on the human aspect of the Framework, everyone agreed that improved communication was critical for any progress.

CBP will be publishing another Federal Register notice in the near future seeking additional comments and ideas for moving forward.