On August 14-15, 2018, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) hosted its 2018 Trade Symposium in Atlanta, GA. During the conference, the agency provided insight on its current trade strategy as well as emerging priorities and trends, which will be the agency’s focus in the coming year. Below are several key areas of concentration.

 

Compliance challenges with ecommerce

With the rapid growth of ecommerce trade, CBP is seeing a shift from the traditional methods of larger containerized shipments to small, low-value packages. The small, just-in-time packages of the ecommerce world can pose the same health, safety, and economic security risks as containerized shipments. And yet visibility to data elements that could assist in identifying high risk shipments is limited.

The growth of ecommerce isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. The number of small parcel shipments actually doubled between 2016 and 2017, a stark jump in growth compared to the incremental increases of the past. It will be critical for CBP to deal with the ecommerce boom through the modernization of regulatory and legal requirements, both in the U.S. and abroad.

The agency is concerned about how to handle low-value shipments under the $800 de minimis level and how to secure partners along the supply chain. CBP needs data, and advanced data at that, in order to find solutions that reduce risk. They are also considering emerging technologies such as blockchain and AI to address ecommerce challenges. Additionally, CBP continues its work with the World Customs Organization (WCO) on the eCommerce Working Group in an effort to identify global solutions to this challenge in a more standardized manner.

A key concern for the agency is how to educate and support small and midsize businesses, which are the core of ecommerce. These are the partners in the supply chain who generate and purchase ecommerce shipments, but may not understand what’s required of them to be compliant. CBP intends to provide information online, create targeted pamphlets, and offer suggestions on solutions that work for their size of business. Educating this audience will help CBP lower the overall risk of ecommerce shipments in the U.S.

This fall, CBP will also publish and share its eCommerce Roadmap outlining how CBP will accomplish their ecommerce goals.

 

Possible new entry type for ecommerce shipments

In order to automate and better administer ecommerce shipments, CBP is proposing an entry type 86 in ACE, designed for small, Section 321 de minimis shipments regulated by partner government agencies (PGAs). They are hoping to test in early fiscal 2019 for CBP. For the prototype, they are considering the following possible data elements: the shipper, unique identifier, consignee, country of origin, quantity, retail value, 10-digit Harmonized Tariff Schedule number, and the importer of record (IOR) number. The Filer must have the ability to do so in ABI/ACE. This initiative is the number one priority for CBP under the current ACE funding budget.

CBP is looking for input from the trade as they work through this prototype. Several points are still under discussion, such as where the legal responsibility for the entry lies. Mail facilities pose a particular challenge because they are unable to perform document reviews for every parcel that comes through the system. The agency is also struggling with privacy laws, as it impacts their ability to identify high risk shipments and entities.

 

Priority concerns in the regulatory audit process

CBP plans to modernize its regulatory audit process in the following three areas.

  • Section 232/301 trade remedies

The Section 232 and 301 trade remedies have had a big impact not only on the trade but also on CBP. The increased duties on specific commodities added another area of focus to the regulatory audit process. CBP is taking a progressive approach with respect to this risk and will be incorporating the Centers of Excellence and Expertise (CEE) for an informed compliance approach initially. Pamphlets providing guidance will be distributed, followed by potential site visits. Monitoring your transactions and paying close attention to valuation will be important. These trade remedy “safeguards” are viewed like existing Priority Trade Issues (PTIs), so if your goods fall within the trade remedies, and you are already subject to antidumping duties, your risk increases dramatically. Be aware that if you receive a notice for a Focused Assessment, CBP will not only audit your import operations but also investigate whether your commodities fall into the categories of the Section 301/232 tariffs. The agency will check compliance to see if you’re declaring properly, using the right HS number, and paying the proper duties.

If you have HS numbers affected by the tariffs, then your risk profile for an audit is increased substantially. It’s imperative that you have excellent processes in place to ensure that your products are properly classified, that you’re capturing the necessary HS and supplementary data, and that you’re auditing post-entry.

  • Forced labor

Forced labor is another area that CBP is working into the regulatory audit process. If you receive an inquiry from CBP about your controls for forced labor or about your social responsibility program, then make sure you respond. You may also want to include your legal department.

An automated solution, with built-in data on forced labor, child labor, and/or indentured labor by country, can help identify areas of potential risk. Additionally, a denied party screening solution can help you determine if your business partners have CBP Withhold Release Orders in place, indicating that the merchandise being imported is suspected of being made with forced labor. It will be important that your company has a process in place to assess business partners on their controls regarding fair labor practices. Lastly, a supply chain compliance solution would allow you to create questionnaires for your suppliers with regard to forced labor and social responsibility practices.

  • Ecommerce

At this time, CBP isn’t taking specific actions regarding ecommerce. Because regulations are still being formulated, a wait-and-see approach is being taken. However, as regulations are established in the future, you can expect ecommerce to be tied into the regulatory audit process.

 

2019 rollout of Trusted Trader program

The rollout of the Trusted Trader program is due to begin in CBP’s fiscal year 2019. The program will combine the security component of CTPAT and the trade compliance component of the Importer Self-Assessment (ISA) program. Integration Point is hosting a public webcast on this topic on September 25, 2018. You can click here to register.

 

New minimum security criteria for CTPAT

CBP recently began the process of sharing the new Minimum Security Criteria (MSC) for the Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (CTPAT) program. The new MSC have been in the works for two years, and this is the first revision since they were created sixteen years ago. The draft versions are being shared with existing CTPAT members for feedback and comment by mid-October 2018, along with workshops and webcasts designed to provide outreach to as many stakeholders as possible. All feedback will be reviewed and taken into consideration before publishing the new MSC. In early 2019, the new MSC will be rolled out in a phased approach, while taking the necessary time to educate the trade and prioritize feasibility.

 

Conclusion

CBP certainly has a large number of objectives to accomplish, and this blogpost provides a snapshot of the most prominent issues that the agency must oversee now and in the future. As trade compliance professionals, you should stay up-to-date on these issues, especially considering the current trade environment where regulations can change rapidly.