The momentum continued as members of the 16th term Commercial Customs Operations Advisory Committee, known as COAC, gathered in Chicago on September 14 for their third public meeting of the fiscal year. It was the first time since the pandemic began that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Trade Advisory Council held its quarterly meeting with face-to-face public participation.
“Thank you everyone for participating. These meetings are critical to the public transparency that is fundamental to our operations,” said CBP Deputy Commissioner Troy A. Miller, who co-chaired the process. “We’re glad to have so many people in this room with us, and we’re grateful that others are joining us online.” Miller explained that the CBP officer was unable to attend the meeting. “Commissioner Magnus is traveling to Mexico this week for the high-level economic dialogue. He sends his regards and wishes he could be here too.”
In his opening remarks, Miller shared a number of trade updates, including the continued progress of the 21st Century Customs Framework, a CBP initiative addressing current and future trade challenges and barriers to modernization. “Throughout the process of putting together the framework, we have paid close attention to input from stakeholders across the customs ecosystem,” he said. “Our close engagement and dialogue with industry resulted in COAC formally expressing support for nearly half of the 21st Century Customs Framework Legislative Package at the COAC Quarterly Meeting in June.”
Miller added that since that time, members of the 21st Century Customs Framework Task Force have continued to review updates to the CBP to respond to industry feedback and have identified areas for further refinement. “The Task Force on the 21st Century Customs Framework has expressed support for 17 provisions so far, which make up the bulk of the legislative package,” Miller said.
By the next COAC meeting in December, CBP and task force members will discuss updates to the rest of the legislative package, including trade facilitation. “We understand the importance of trade facilitation to you and the health of the U.S. economy, and look forward to focusing on your proposals over the next quarter,” Miller said. “We also recognize the important role played by our partner government agencies and we will continue to engage with them on these key issues.”
Miller also spoke about the industry’s important role in preventing forced labor products from entering US commerce. “Supply chains have become increasingly complex in an ever-evolving global marketplace. It is crucial that those looking to import goods understand their supply chains and work to prevent the importation of goods manufactured using forced labour,” he said.
Miller provided an example to illustrate the effectiveness of CBP’s enforcement actions. “Last week, the CBP amended an order withholding release against Indian company Natchi Apparel Limited, allowing the company to resume importing into the United States. This change comes just a month after the CBP issued the original deferral clearance in late July,” Mueller said. After reviewing new evidence and extensive collaboration with partner organizations, CBP concluded that Natchi addressed all six indicators of forced labor identified in the original release order. “That’s exactly the outcome we’re hoping for in withholding clearance orders and findings,” Miller said.
“We understand that the industry still has questions about the implementation of forced labor, and we also understand the magnitude of this challenge for both compliance and enforcement,” Miller told the audience. “We listen to your feedback. We look forward to further dialogue with COAC and appreciate the opportunity to benefit from your creativity, insight and engagement.”
Tom West, Assistant Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy at the US Treasury Department, who also co-chaired the meeting, recognized the importance of COAC’s work in keeping pace with the changing trading environment. One area he mentioned was the modernization of broker regulations. “We are in our final review process of the broker modernization and regulation packages and hope to have them approved and signed off in the near future,” West said. “I know that COAC has contributed to this effort and many members have commented on the proposed regulations. We value, appreciate and always consider this feedback. It was very useful in getting us to where the final rules are.”
On behalf of COAC, Brian White, Senior Director of Customs and Trade Facilitation at Intel Corporation, thanked CBP for the opportunity to meet outside of Washington, DC. “While we were here this week, we had the opportunity to meet with local port officials where COAC members were given an overview of the passenger handling and refurbishment projects taking place here at O’Hare International Airport,” White said. “We also had the opportunity to see some of the agency’s challenges in the international mail room. I am consistently impressed by the caliber of the men and women at the agency and their ongoing commitment. We sometimes forget. We’re looking at the agency from a commercial perspective, but CBP is one of the world’s largest law enforcement agencies, tasked with a fairly wide range of tasks. As members, we’ve seen that in action this week,” White said. “On behalf of all members here today, we are grateful for the opportunity to assist CBP in this mission of providing advice and guidance on trading practices.”
Later, during the meeting, White provided a brief overview of the 21st Century Customs Framework Initiative from the perspective of the trading community. “I have been encouraged by the progress we have made with CBP over the past few months. We’ve worked to address trade concerns with several of the statutes, but we clearly have much more work to do.” White explained that the focus over the past year and a half has been on CBP’s challenge areas. But now the conversation needs to turn. “We want to focus on the areas that address trade challenges that we want to advance to ensure we provide some trade facilitation benefits and opportunities,” White said. “Then we can offer CBP the opportunity to discuss the legislative level changes and look for areas where we can collectively agree and move forward.”
White appealed to the trading community with a call to action. “Think about the legislative facilitation opportunities that each of you would like to see advanced in the 21st century customs framework. Talk to your peers, talk to your commercial advisor when hiring an outside attorney. What are some of the concepts that we as a trade want to promote together with CBP to find a balance between enforcement and facilitation opportunities? We want to make sure that all of your ideas are represented in this COAC process and that CBP also has an opportunity to contribute,” said White.
The meeting also included updates on trade programs and the work of the COAC subcommittee. Eight recommendations were presented and approved unanimously. Three of the recommendations related to the 21st Century Customs Framework, two to the Automated Trade Environment 2.0, two to Export Modernization and one to e-commerce.
The next COAC meeting will be held in Washington, DC on December 7th
COAC is a 20-member advisory committee established by Congress in 1987. The Committee advises and recommends to CBP and the Treasury Department regarding CBP’s operations and trade-related interdepartmental functions. Topics that COAC focuses on include improved border and supply chain security, international efforts to harmonize customs practices and procedures, import security, compliance, and modernization and automation processes to facilitate trade.