U.S. Customs and Border Protection Acting Commissioner David Aguilar announced Thursday that CBP will establish new Centers of Excellence and Expertise in Detroit and Houston, bringing to four the national centers designed to bring more uniformity and industry knowledge to Customs’ operations.
Centers of Excellence and Expertise are commodity-specific offices where Customs concentrates a variety of its specialists who share information with the private sector, and vice versa, to ensure that Customs treats the classification and clearance of products consistently throughout its more than 300 seaport, airport and border crossing entry points throughout the U.S.
Customs last October established its first two CEEs. The New York center handles pharmaceuticals and chemicals and the Long Beach center is in charge of electronics imports.
The Detroit CEE will be a center for the automobile and aerospace industries, and the Houston CEE will be a center for petroleum, natural gas and minerals.
Aguilar, addressing CBP’s first-ever West Coast Trade Symposium in Long Beach, described the CEEs as bi-directional centers in which Customs trade specialists share their expertise with industry, and the private sector companies educate CBP about how their supply chains operate.
Customs aggregates this knowledge and disseminates it to its ports of entry so the same product is treated in the same way no matter where it enters the country.
In addition to providing continuity and consistent treatment for the trade community, CEEs will help Customs improve the efficiency of its operations and reduce its workload by removing redundancies.
Aguilar cited the example of Apple. If the computer giant generates 60 different import transactions scattered across various ports of entry, under traditional Customs practices, it would generate 60 requests for information, known as CF-28s, which in turn would generate 60 responses from the agency, known as CF-29 forms.
The CEES will make Customs “adaptable, nimble and dynamic” and will help the agency provide service that is centralized and consistent, Aguilar said. In the Apple hypothetical, the 60 transactions would trigger a single CF-28 and one CF-29.
The details of the Detroit and Houston operations will be provided to the trade community in the months ahead, although they are likely to operate along the model established in the New York and Long Beach centers.
Brenda Smith, CBP’s executive director for trade policy and programs in the office of International Trade, called the CEEs a “game changer” in Customs’ relationship with the trade community. They will mirror the business enterprises they are dealing with, making the importation process more efficient and predictable, she said.
Customs has identified nine key industry sectors. Each product will have its own CEE in a location that make sense for the particular commodity, Smith said. CBP intends to make additional CEE announcements during the next fiscal year.