NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Customs and Border Protection will open six Centers of Excellence and Expertise nationally in 2013, as the agency works to bring uniformity to the handling of major product imports, Deputy Chief David Aguilar said on Tuesday.
Aguilar said the agency signed a mutual recognition agreement with Taiwan this week, expanding the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism program to seven trading partners. The first six C-PAT partners — the European Union, New Zealand, Canada, Jordan, Japan and South Korea — are among the 10 top importers of U.S. goods. Japan Customs will recognize certain U.S. exporters in the C-TPAT program, Aguilar said at Customs’ 2012 East Coast Trade Symposium in National Harbor, Md.
“Centers of Excellence and Expertise are not only the centerpiece of our trade process transformation, they already are increasing our capacity,” Aguilar said. “This expansion will empower CBP to more effectively partner with industry to facilitate international trade through U.S. ports of entry.”
A new center in Miami will provide agriculture and prepared products expertise; a San Francisco facility will have experts on apparel, footwear and textiles; and the new center in Chicago will focus on base metal know-how. The Atlanta center will concentrate on consumer products and merchandising; the Buffalo, N.Y., facility will lend shippers expertise in industrial and manufacturing trade; and the Laredo, Texas, will offer machinery expertise. Customs already operates centers for electronics in Long Beach, Calif.; pharmaceuticals, health and chemicals in New York City; automotive and aerospace in Detroit; and petroleum, natural gas and minerals in Houston.
Aguilar said the agency would continue to work to make trade faster, cheaper and safer for shippers in the coming year. He highlighted the agency’s success in increased automation, broker regulation outreach and communications with shippers and transportation providers.
“We hold no illusion that this is an easy path or something we can accomplish overnight,” he said.
Janet Napolitano, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said the agency has concentrated “an unprecedented amount” of capital, personnel and technology to facilitate safe and faster trade. Customs will facilitate roughly $2 trillion in trade this year.
Napolitano emphasized the need for the agency to continue to work with U.S. shippers, the logistics community and trade partners to strengthen the global supply chain. Data and intelligence will be key to focusing attention on high-risk shipments because the “one-size-fits-all” screening method unnecessarily hinders trade.
“If we have to find a needle in the haystack, it makes sense to have all the data on hay,” Napolitano said.