The annual CBP Symposium, held at the D.C. Convention Center, Washington, D.C. from December 8-10, 2009, was the 10th year of this very successful event.  Over 850 attendees were initially greeted by outgoing Acting Commissioner Jay Ahern.  The Symposium agenda was a smorgasbord of information that was appropriate for anyone with a serious interest in international trade and logistics. Highlights included presentations from Assistant Commissioner Dan Baldwin, Office of International Trade, Rich DiNucci, Director, Secure Freight Initiative (“10+2”), Bob Swierupski, Director, National Commodity Specialist Division, and Brenda Smith, Executive Director, Trade Policy and Programs, about what the international trade community should expect in 2010 from CBP.  Special Presentations were made by Jeremy Baskin, Office of General Counsel, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, and Domenic Veneziano, Director, Division of Import Operations and Policy, U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Mr. DiNucci’s presentation on Importer Security Filing (ISF) stated that CBP has received from January 26, 2009 through December 6, 2009 3.65 million ISF filings from over 1,900 ISF filers representing 103,000 ISF importers. There is now a 95% acceptance rate on ISF filings.  As you know, the enforcement mode for ISF begins January 26, 2010, and there will be a $5,000 penalty issued by CBP for a violation per ISF transmission or $10,000 maximum per ISF filing.  Importers should be familiar with the ISF Interim Final Rule, the FAQ on ISF, and the Mitigation Guidelines issued by CBP.

Therese Randazzo, Director, IPR Policy and Programs Division, stated that CBP had issued over 1,000 fine notices, pursuant to 19 U.S.C. 1526(e), totaling $94 million against importers for attempting to import counterfeit merchandise.  However, only $2 million was collected from those importers.   Ms. Randazzo acknowledged that the U.S. Attorney’s Offices are reluctant to pursue such cases because the importer has already been punished in that the merchandise was seized and forfeited, and adding a fine on top of that may be considered a violation of the “excessive fine” clause of the United States Constitution.  Charles Steuart, the new Intellectual Property Rights and Restricted Branch Chief, stated that CBP had  “targeting inefficiencies because of  lack of information of the international supply chain from trademark and copyright holders” who have recorded their trademarks, trade names, and copyrights with CBP.

Mr. Swierupski stated that his office had issued 6,821 Rulings pursuant to 19 CFR Part 177 in FY 2009, that Rulings from his New York office are issued within 30 days and those from CBP HQ are issued within 90 days.  Myles Harmon, Director, Commercial and Trade Facilitation Division, reminded persons submitting Ruling Requests to do so using CBP’s new e-Rulings system, however, if a physical sample is submitted to CBP, the Ruling must still be made by paper, and not through the e-Rulings system. CBP has issued about 160,000 rulings available on CROSS.  Advance Ruling Requests are still the best method of predicting proper classification, valuation, country of origin, and other import requirements.

I look forward to next year’s CBP Symposium. Be sure to sign up early as the event is always quickly sold out.