On July 11, 2023, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) held the Green Trade Innovation and Incentives Forum, the agency’s first conference that covered CBP’s Green Trade Strategy and related sustainable trade issues. The CBP Green Trade Strategy was formulated by the World Customs Organization (WCO) in Brussels in June of 2022 and serves as the agency’s action plan for addressing climate change’s impact on global trade. The Green Trade Strategy seeks to create business incentives that promote green investment and innovation but also includes ramped-up environmental enforcement efforts. The conference participants included multiple senior officials from CBP, and its partner agencies, as well as top executives from leading industry organizations. 

Green Trade Incentives: 

AnnMarie Highsmith, Executive Assistant Commissioner for CBP’s Office of Trade explained that the Green Strategy rests on four pillars: 

  1. Incentivizing Green Trade

  2. Strengthening environmental enforcement posture

  3. Accelerating green innovation

  4. Improving climate resilience and resource efficiency 

The first and third pillars refer to CBP’s efforts to work with its partner government agencies and industry leaders to remove barriers to sustainable trade and to promote green innovation. Multiple industry leaders at the conference proposed ways that CBP could create incentive structures that reduce the carbon footprint of global supply chains and promote green innovation.  

  • Matthew Thurston, Vice President of Sustainability at REI-Co-op noted that a challenge for manufacturers is creating product impact standards for suppliers of raw materials. Mr. Thurston noted that one-way CBP could incentivize manufacturers to invest in low-carbon materials in merchandising by amending the HTS to provide duty benefits. 
  • Michael Levine, Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer at Under Armor added that government agencies should incentivize investment in the mechanical-chemical infrastructure, which would reduce costs for creating re-usable materials. 

Vaishali Udupa, Commissioner for Patents, at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) explained how the USPTO drives innovation in green technology by providing incentives for industry organizations. Ms. Udupa identified several USPTO programs that create incentives for green investment: 

  • Patents for Humanity: A “Green Energy Award” will be issued to patent applicants, holders, and licensees whose inventions address climate change through green technologies. Application deadline is September 15, 2023. 
  • Trademarks for Humanity: An award that recognizes brand owners that solve humanitarian challenges, including the promotion of sound environmental business practices. Application deadline is July 14, 2023, or until 200 applicants are registered. 
  • Climate Change Mitigation Pilot Program: accelerates patent application review for technologies that address climate change. Submission deadline is July 7, 2027, or until 4,000 applications are registered. 

Green Trade Enforcement 

As noted above, strengthening environmental enforcement efforts is a central pillar of CBP’s Green Strategy.  

  • Troy Miller, Acting Commissioner at CBP noted that the agency plans to increase its enforcement efforts to target illegal logging operations in the amazon. Mr. Miller also identified illegal fishing practices as another target of CBP’s joint enforcement efforts (noting CBP’s recent seizure of illegal fish bladders worth 2 million USD in Arizona). 

Environmental considerations should be built into your import and export compliance plans. To learn more, contact Diaz Trade Law at 305-456-383 or info@diaztradelaw.com.