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COAC Hopes to Move From Enforcement to Facilitation as 21CCF Discussions Continue

As the finish line comes into sight for discussions with CBP on enforcement-related agency “challenge areas” under the 21st Century Customs Framework (21CCF), trade community participants now seek to steer the discourse toward facilitation and modernization opportunities that may prove crucial to getting buy-in from the trade industry.

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The broader trade sector “is not going to be supporting this legislation, unless we’re able to present and get behind these trade facilitation and modernization opportunities” alongside the enforcement measures under discussion, Commercial Customs Operations Advisory Committee Co-Chair Brian White said at the advisory committee’s Sept. 14 meeting. “So we intend to leverage the existing” 21CCF Task Force and focus group process to “pivot the conversation” to “ensure that we’re delivering” trade facilitation benefits, White said.

At the meeting, White issued a “call to action” to the trade community to begin gathering their input into what statutory-level changes they may want advanced as part of 21CCF. He exhorted the trade to “talk to your colleagues, talk to your trade counsel” to come up with concepts that can be put forth in discussions. “We want to make sure that all of your ideas are represented in this collaborative process,” he said.

White said he hopes to soon “finalize all discussions related to the CBP challenge areas in this upcoming quarter” so discussions can move from enforcement priorities to facilitation and modernization. CBP officials said earlier at the COAC meeting that discussions have now concluded on the majority of legislative discussion drafts to address those challenge areas (see 2209140051).

According to an updated 21CCF white paper released in advance of the meeting, CBP and the COAC reached agreement on three more statutory drafts since the prior version of the paper came out in June. One of those was an amendment to 19 USC 1415 to allow CBP to use advance electronic data for any lawful purpose. The COAC signed off on the change after CBP added language to limit the scope of Air Cargo Advance Screening data that can be used and put in a reference to information sharing protections under 19 USC 1628, the white paper said.

Another area where CBP and the trade reached agreement was on amendments to 19 USC 4320, 19 USC 1321 and 19 USC 1498 on suspension and debarment. CBP agreed to add a “secondary due process step” prior to importer of record suspension when Federal System for Award Management (SAM) “exclusions are not at the direction of CBP,” the white paper said. “Doing so limits the qualifying abuse actions to federal, import related issues, particularly related to the financial inability or refusal to pay duties, taxes, or fees,” it said.

The COAC also signed off on changes to the seizure and forfeiture statutes on intellectual property rights after CBP agreed to “limit application of summary forfeiture to the de minimis environment for imports and under $800 for the aggregate value of the shipment for exports,” the white paper said.

Dialogue will continue in the upcoming quarter on several areas where CBP and the trade were unable to reach agreement, the white paper said. Among other things, the COAC is still pushing for a mechanism to immediately end EAPA investigations once an importer provides evidence that its supply chain has been adjusted to ensure compliance. It remains at loggerheads on changes to 19 USC 1595a that would expand the circumstances under which CBP could assess penalties, with CBP rejecting its request to insert a knowledge standard. And there is still no agreement on CBP’s proposal to remove the gross negligence standard from 19 USC 1592, which the COAC opposes.