Commentary: CBP official pays tribute to brokers
U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s resident humorist, Assistant Commissioner for International Trade Al Gina, for the second year in a row was the keynote lunch speaker at the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America’s Government Affairs Conference on Sept. 10 in Washington.
Once again he had the delegates laughing and whistling as he entertained them with stories and jokes, but he also brought a serious message about how the agency views brokers and its efforts to make life easier for those involved in international commerce
Gina filled in for Commissioner David Aguilar, who had to be in Texas the day of the event, and borrowed his boss’s speech as a starting point for his comments. After reading the document for a while, Gina said he realized that he had signed off on the speech, along with several of his colleagues as is customary for any presentation given by the commissioner.
“So when I started reading the speech, it says: ‘Brokers are the most critical partners.
“Forwarders are equally important.
“Brokers are the best.
“Brokers are wonderful.
“NCBFAA completes us,” he said to howls of laughter and applause.
“I said, ‘Who was watching Jerry McGuire when they wrote the speech?’”
He blamed the obsequious comments on the fact that he was watching the New York Giants football game against the Dallas Cowboys the Wednesday night before the conference.
“That teaches you, you shouldn’t be writing or reviewing speeches during football games,” he said.
“But in sincerity, truth is the NCBFAA and each of you is extremely important to us. When we think about partnerships and partners, NCBFAA is probably one of the most important. And I believe every commissioner to date, including Commissioner Aguilar, recognizes that,” Gina said.
Those sentiments stem from the fact that brokers process the bulk of imports into the United States and their knowledge of trade regulations can help ensure importers stay in compliance. CBP officials in recent years have talked about brokers being a force multiplier, in essence their eyes and ears in the field regarding enforcement issues, because they handle so much trade activity and shipment data.
Gina also extended the commissioner’s gratitude to members of the broker community and the NCBFAA who have worked closely with CBP to resolve problems at ports of entry and help develop better policies for managing border trade.
Aguilar is a family man, Gina said, and “he wanted it to be known and recognized that a lot of the interaction we have with each of you is done on your own time. We know it takes away from your family. It takes away from certain commitments. I’m sure some of you are missing birthday parties, other events, the first week of school.”
Conference participants also spent a day on Capitol Hill visiting the offices of various lawmakers to press for action on issues such as a Customs reauthorization bill. Some stayed a third day to participate in committee meetings with the Federal Maritime Commission and CBP.
“I’m not sure you hear that from a law enforcement agency, but he wanted that to be recognized. And those individuals who also work and participate with us on COAC (Commercial Operations Advisory Committee), we know that’s all on your own time. And it’s a taking away from running a family business” or being home, Gina said. (Eric Kulisch)
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