U.S. Customs and Border Protection on Thursday announced the opening of new Centers of Excellence and Expertise for base metals in Chicago, industrial and manufacturing materials in Buffalo, N.Y., and machinery in Laredo, Texas, giving those industries the opportunity for smoother customs processing of imports and uniform enforcement.
Also known as Industry Integration Centers, the virtual import processing centers are organized around specific industries and are designed to reduce red tape associated with importation through centralized processing instead of allowing each port of entry to make the call on how to interpret various trade compliance regulations.
CBP officials announced plans last November to launch six CEEs in fiscal year 2013, including three more for apparel and footwear in San Francisco, retail products in Atlanta, and agricultural and prepared products in Miami.
The CEEs are technically set up as a three-year pilot program, but their initial success suggest that they will be made permanent. They are extremely popular with the trade community, which pushed for and helped in their development.
The new CEEs are in addition to existing ones established in the past 18 months for pharmaceuticals, health and chemicals in New York; electronics in Los Angeles; automotive and aerospace in Detroit; and petroleum, natural gas and minerals in Houston.
The centers serve as a single point of processing for importers in CBP's trusted trader programs: Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism and the Importer Self-Assessment, which enables companies with proven internal controls to self-police compliance with trade regulations in exchange for fewer audits.
The industry integration centers handle the entry summary work and perform other activities such as validations, and post-entry amendment and correction reviews. Import documents are routed to the CEEs, but revenue collection and security checks continue to take place the actual ports of entry.
Industry and Customs officials say that giving each center a nationwide reach enables shipments to get the same, consistent treatment regarding product classification or other conditions no matter which physical port they go through. Import experts are trained to understand the normal shipping practices of each industry and can guide personnel at the ports about which shipments to inspect and which to leave alone because they don't pose a risk.
The Industry Integration Centers are coordinated from strategic locations, but CBP experts from across the country answer questions, provide information and develop trade facilitation strategies for specific commodities.
CBP said it's currently accepting applications from importers to participate in the new centers. The agency said in a recent Federal Register notice that it plans to begin accepting applications for the three remaining CEEs on June 3.
of Excellence and Expertise provide tailored support to our industry partners,” Acting Commissioner Thomas S. Winkowski, said in a statement. “This account based
approach provides the opportunity to lower transaction cost for industry while
simultaneously enhancing CBP’s enforcement efforts.” - Eric Kulisch