Ever since the tragic events of 9/11, the sole focus of U.S. Customs and Border Protection has been anti-terrorism. This is true, despite the rhetoric in more recent years that U.S. Customs serves the equally vital goals of anti-terrorism and facilitating the flow of legitimate trade and travel. The former priorities of collecting customs duties and fees, facilitating international trade, preventing illegal trade practices, and interdicting drugs and other contraband was shoved to the side in the name of protecting our homeland from terrorists.
Fortunately, the United States Congress, through the Senate Finance Committee led by Sen. Max Baucus (D-Montana), on August 6, 2009, introduced a bill entitled “The Customs Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Reauthorization Act of 2009.” Senator Baucus said that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have not been focusing sufficient resources on their trade missions, “and this bill would direct them to do so.”
If the bill becomes law, and it should, because of both Democratic and Republic support, it would refocus U.S. Customs on regulating international trade, a mission U.S. Customs has performed very well for over 200 years. In summary, among other things, the law would:
1) Replace the Office of Trade Relations with a new Trade Advocate, who would be the primary liaison between the public and U.S. Customs;
2) Create a Principal Deputy Commissioner, appointed by the President of the United States;
3) Consolidate the current Office of International Trade and the Office of International Affairs into a single Office of International Trade;
4) Make health and safety issues a top priority;
5) Make protection of intellectual property rights a top priority;
a) allow trademark and copyright owners to simultaneously electronically register a trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office or a copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office and also record it with U.S. Customs;
b) create a new National Intellectual Property Rights Center within the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency; and
6) create enhanced benefits for importers, customs brokers, ocean carriers, and other participants in the U.S. Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (CTPAT).
This legislation is long overdue, and I hope it will be supported by the international trade and transportation community of the United States. For those who want to read all 400 sections of the bill, it is S. 1631.