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Value of Broker Continuing Education to CBP Still Undetermined, Smith Says

CBP's consideration of the value that would be added with continuing education for customs brokers requirements remains a “work in progress,” said Brenda Smith, CBP executive assistant commissioner-trade, during a March 25 call with reporters. Smith, whose last day before retirement is March 26 (see 2103170057), said CBP received “a lot of comments” and “across the board, there were a number of concerns that were raised that we are going to have to think through whether the value of requiring continuing professional education outweighs” the costs. “We've got some good insight into how we could analyze those costs and benefits,” she said.

The agency would next issue a notice of proposed rulemaking “if we determine that in fact it would be clear that the benefits outweigh the costs,” Smith said. CBP issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking on continuing education last year (see 2010270038 and 2012300035).

CBP looks forward to finalizing its updates to customs broker regulations (see 2006040037), though the timing remains in flux, Smith said. “The layers of review and clearance on any regulatory package are always a challenge,” she said. “They are even more so when a set of regulations gets caught in an administration's transition. So it's incumbent on CBP to educate the new leadership at both CBP and [the Department of Homeland Security] to ensure” what's in the package “is consistent with that leadership's vision,” she said. “I don't have a sense of the timeline. I know they have a lot of other things on their plate right now.”

CBP likely will soon broaden its enforcement of the withhold release order on cotton from China’s Xinjiang region (see 2101130053) to include goods finished in other countries, she said. The initial focus from a risk standpoint was on a direct connection to Xinjiang (see 2101280025), but CBP will soon make use of audit surveys to show the trends and patterns for how the cotton is “actually processed,” she said. Using that and other information, “we'll see in the coming weeks and months increased enforcement,” Smith said.

It's still unclear whether the Biden administration will continue to pursue ending the de minimis exemption for goods subject to Section 301 tariffs, Smith said. Many agency rulemakings, including the de minimis proposal, were frozen when Joe Biden took office (see 2101210039). “As we are an implementing agency, not a trade policy agency, we will look to” the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and departments of Commerce and the Treasury “for guidance around their goals, and then we'll take the appropriate action.”

A broader sharing of trade data and standards internationally could be among the ways global trade changes over the coming decade, Smith said. “I'm not sure even now that, from a technology, data security perspective, we are there,” but “I think what we recognize is that the complexity of different requirements around the world adds cost and adds time to the supply chains and also doesn't really help ensuring compliance.” There's a “tremendous amount of opportunity over the next five years in terms of collaborating globally, leveraging technology, leveraging supply chain transparency to make supply chains more agile and resilient.

CBP and the USTR are working closely on how to approach auto industry calculation provisions within USMCA. “We know that there are some gaps and there are some ongoing conversations about areas where the expectations from the parties involved were not always matching,” she said. The complexity of the USMCA rules and policy goals for the auto industry made for some “significant challenges in terms of translating to clear, operational guidance,” she said. CBP will continue to work with the auto industry requirements and will be ready “if there is a change in interpretation or a change in the policy goal, to be able to reflect that in our guidance and implement appropriately.” The issue was said to require urgent attention from CBP when it came up at the March 17 Commercial Customs Operations Advisory Committee meeting (see 2103180012).