In a letter to Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, the National Customs Brokers & Forwarders Association of America, Inc. (NCBFAA) President Federico Zuniga encouraged him to continue the Department of Commerce’s long-standing policy of safeguarding competition-sensitive export information as it establishes mandatory filing of data through the Automated Export System (AES).
The NCBFAA’s concern arose when both Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Homeland Security refused to approve regulations clarifying filers’ responsibilities under the law and implementing the statutory requirement for mandatory filing through AES.
Central to the controversy is a CBP demand for concessions on AES “option 4” and on the availability of Census data to foreign governments. Census has, by statute, the responsibility to keep their export data confidential; CBP wants to make some data available to foreign governments in order to comport with the recent World Customs Organization security agreements.
‘Respectfully, we need hardly remind you of the consequences of competition-sensitive export information flowing freely to foreign governments and then perhaps on to our competitors overseas,’ President Zuniga said. ‘Nor need we mention the statutory safeguards that Census and the Department have so assiduously preserved.’
As to option 4, which permits the shipping of data in advance of the exporting providing 100% of the required AES data, CBP wants to carve back on the agreement made between themselves, Census and the private sector some time ago. For example, CBP does not want to “grandfather in” previous option 4 exporters.
‘Option 4 poses no threat to our security: ‘grandfathered’ participants are our most reputable US firms,’ stated President Zuniga. ‘Option 4 helps expedite the shipment of US exports at a time when we need to be enhancing the flow of goods outbound, not finding ways to slow them down.’
In conclusion, the NCBFAA urged Commerce to stay the course on these issues and protect American exports. ‘Census has been vigilant to the consequences of CBP’s demands and now, as the issue is elevated to a discourse with DHS,’ President Zuniga added, ‘We are even more reliant on your effective representation of our exporters’ interests.’