U.S. Customs and Border Protection intends to automate trade at the borders, but a letter composed earlier this summer – by an organization representing many of the entities such a move would affect – insists that the government agency is rushing the transition.
How Customs plans to update border processing
The letter, sent to Customs Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske, suggested that a November move to a so-called "single window" – a single system for documenting trade activity, referred to as the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) – is premature. A number of federal agencies as well as trade groups believe that the switch to an automated border processing system is a good idea, but one that must be approached more slowly. The ACE single window is supposed to move border processing to a single, automated system in an effort to modernize import and export activity.
"The system is an effort to modernize import and export activity."
As the Journal of Commerce (JOC) called it, the system is a "single access point to connect the trade community with Customs and partner government agencies." It will assist importers and exporters with sharing certain documents with government entities, making border processes more affordable and efficient.
Trade groups and federal agencies alike behind on ACE single window
In its letter to Kerlikowske the Trade Leadership Council (TLC), a group of a shippers, explained its concern about the pending deadline to use ACE for all electronic cargo releases, as well as entry summary filing. The group noted that its members have been working hard to prepare for the implementation of the ACE system at the cost of other important business operations. The consolidation and automation of border processes is a good idea, the group noted, making use of the ACE single window mandatory so soon could prove detrimental, according to the TLC.
"We are concerned that proceeding with the November 1, 2015 deadline will result in unwarranted expense and disruption for both trade and the U.S. Government and will harm future and ongoing efforts to continue the development of ACE," the organization explained in the letter.
For trade groups, at least, part of the reason for the pushback against a November deadline may be the fact that the month falls just before Christmas, an important time for retailers and shippers, Marianne Rowden, president and CEO of the American Association of Exporters & Importers, told the JOC.
Some federal agencies are also concerned about the impending deadline for mandatory use of the ACE single window system, according to the news outlet. For example, despite Customs' insistence that the November deadline stands, the Fish and Wildlife Service has admitted it cannot make the deadline and will push implementation to early 2016.
Customs has its own deadlines to stick to
Despite the pushback from trade groups and federal entities alike, Customs has remained adamant about the deadlines already in place for mandatory use of the ACE single window, according to the JOC. The agency has rolled out many of the modules associated with the system.
"Customs has remained adamant about the deadlines."
Thus far, 100 percent of import manifest functionality is online, while over 80 percent of core cargo release processing capabilities and more than 60 percent of post release capabilities have been dispatched, according to the news outlet. Additionally, over 70 percent of export processing functionality and more than 80 percent of single window integration capabilities have been delivered.
However, Rowden believes that Customs has been so adamant about the November implementation date because it has its own, separate deadlines to stick to that rely on the ACE single window.
"CBP is working to complete core trade processing capabilities in ACE by Dec. 2016, a timeline supported by the White House Executive Order issued on Feb. 19, 2014," the agency explained on its ACE and Automated Systems website.
Rowden explained that if Customs allows trade groups and industries to force it to push back the ACE single window implementation deadline, then it will miss its own Dec. 2016 core trade processing capabilities mandatory implementation date.