NRF supports the International Trade Data System
The National Retail Federation welcomed legislation being considered by a Senate committee that sponsors say will increase U.S. Customs and Border Protection's focus on international trade issues after years of concentrating on the fight against terrorism.
“Since the tragic events of 9/11 and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, it seems as if CBP's sole mission was to guard against the smuggling of weapons of mass destruction into the United States,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “While we agree that this is an extremely important objective and strongly support CBP's current efforts, there are many within the trade community who feel as if trade facilitation has fallen by the wayside as a core element of CBP's mission. We believe that this bill is an important measure to ensure that trade facilitation is at the forefront of CBP's mission and is balanced with the agency's homeland security responsibilities.”
The Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday held a hearing on S. 1631, the Customs Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2009, sponsored by committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., and co-sponsored by Ranking Member Charles Grassley, R-Iowa. Baucus and Grassley said in introducing the bill in August that they were concerned that both CBP and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement had not focused sufficient resources on their trade missions after the two were realigned from previous agencies and placed under the newly created Department of Homeland Security in 2002.
The legislation is intended to strike a balance between the agencies' trade duties and homeland security duties by declaring trade facilitation a priority for DHS and other steps. Among other provisions, it would create a principal deputy commissioner and an assistant commissioner of trade within CBP, both devoted exclusively to trade facilitation and commercial enforcement. It would also create a new division within CBP's Office of Field Operations to improve customs facilitation and trade enforcement at U.S. ports, and create a new trade advocate to act as a liaison between CBP and the private sector.
In written testimony filed with the committee, NRF welcomed a requirement in the bill that CBP develop and define trade benefits for companies that participate in the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism program. While CBP provides security benefits such as reduced risk scoring that can result in potentially fewer security inspections, NRF believes enhanced trade-related benefits need to be provided as well.
NRF also strongly supports the bill's provision for dedicated funding for the Automated Commercial Environment computer system, which would replace the antiquated Automated Commercial System currently in use. NRF expressed concern, however, that the $325 million provided is sufficient to complete development and full implementation by the target of 2012. NRF also supports the International Trade Data System, which would provide an interface between ACE and other federal agencies' computer systems, but is concerned whether systems will be able to communicate.