Customs Brokers Swear in President

Customs Brokers Swear in President

Jeffrey Coppersmith, the new president of the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America, is taking charge at a time when things are looking up for the organization.

The 800-member organization grew 15 percent in 2009 despite the recession. Its education programs are growing, and customs brokers are gaining credibility with government agencies beyond Customs and Border Protection.

Coppersmith, president of Coppersmith Inc. in El Segundo, Calif., was sworn in Tuesday night for a two-year term as president during NCBFAA's annual conference in San Antonio.

“Even in down years, people want to know what's going on. How do they do that? Join the NCBFAA,” Coppersmith said. “We had 72 first-time attendees this year. I asked them 'Why do you come?' they said they want to know what's going on.”

Coppersmith said that the organization's educational institute has grown 300 percent in the past three years, offering certification programs for import and export specialists.

“Ongoing education is critical since there are so many changes going on, but we're very engaged politically, and we'll stay engaged, because this is our livelihood,” Coppersmith said.

The NCBFAA is a vigorous advocate for brokers' interests in Washington. In the past 10 years it has played a prominent role in developing programs from the Automated Commercial Environment to the Importer Self-Assessment or 10+2 regulations.

Coppersmith and Alan Klestadt, NCBFAA general counsel, said that brokers are simultaneously partners with Customs and Border Protection and subjects of Customs' regulation.

“This is a professional organization. We are about doing the job professionally in delivering a service,” Klestadt said. “As Customs has moved through different administrations, you have seen threats to our livelihood, and evolution and change. We're trying to manage that change effectively and intelligently for our members.”

“Customs wants to partner with us,” Coppersmith said. “We've seen commissioners come and go, but the NCBFAA is always here. We know the issues and the history. It's our responsibility for brokers and forwarders to make sure the direction we go is in the best interests of our members.”

Recently Customs has devoted more resources to regulatory oversight of brokers. Klestadt said that brokers recognize Customs' authority, but they expect Customs' oversight will be even-handed.

“We're working with Customs to make sure that their resources are applied in a reasonable and professional and fair manner,” Klestadt said. “We don't dispute Customs' authority to regulate our industry. Our concern is that it be done with uniformity and clarity, so our members know what the rules of the road are.”

Contact R.G. Edmonson at bedmonson@joc.com.