At a time when economic growth is critical for the nation, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Acting Commissioner David V. Aguilar addressed hundreds of trade business leaders at the American Association of Exporters and Importers’ 91st Annual Conference in Arlington, Va. on Monday
Aguilar, who was the keynote speaker at AAEI’s opening day luncheon, told a packed audience that he wanted to give them a substantive report on the direction the agency was headed. “When I stepped up to this position, there were a lot of commitments that we made—commitments from CBP as representatives from the government and as regulators,” said Aguilar. “We believe we have kept our word.” But he added, “We are not finished. We are going to continue. We have a lot further to go, and that is one of the reasons I wanted to give you this progress report.”
Aguilar spoke about CBP’s new Centers of Excellence and Expertise. “We’re institutionalizing a new culture. We’re transforming trade by creating structures, programs, and policies that will outlast certainly my time in government,” he said. “And that’s what we should be doing. We’re building the future and it’s an exciting place to be at this point in time.”
As part of his discussion, he mentioned that a center for the automotive and aerospace industries coordinated out of Detroit and a center for the petroleum, natural gas, and minerals industries coordinated out of Houston had just been announced a few weeks earlier at a CBP hosted trade symposium on the West Coast. He also shared that five more centers were yet to come. “We will have the other Centers of Excellence and Expertise up and running by the end of 2013,” he said.
Aguilar explained that the agency was looking at opportunities to reduce risk and increase efficiencies. “We’re looking at our processes and programs, looking for ways to improve them, make them better for us and for you,” he said. “The future of trade processing will eliminate unnecessary and redundant requests and it will lower the cost of doing business, which helps all of us.”
The transformative changes will rely on the co-creation of initiatives and bi-directional education between CBP and the trade community, explained Aguilar. “In order to be successful, we have to engage as partners,” he said. “We’re fundamentally transforming our relationship with the private sector.”
Aguilar also spoke about the importance of modernizing the agency’s automated systems. “ACE is the future, so we must and we will move forward with ACE,” he said, referring to CBP’s Automated Commercial Environment program that helps government agencies collect, analyze, assign risk, and process international shipments that are coming in and out of the U.S. “We’ve made some tremendous strides with ACE,” he said, noting that the ability for rail and sea carriers to transmit shipment information prior to arrival in the U.S. was successfully deployed in April. “Members of the trade have six months to transition from the old system to—ACE,” said Aguilar. But, he shared, already 85 percent of the carrier community impacted by the program, known as M1, have either sent rail and sea manifests to ACE for processing or are testing the program.
Aguilar gave updates on many other CBP initiatives including Simplified Entry, the Air Cargo Advance Screening or ACAS pilot, and the Border Interagency Executive Council, a new mechanism that resolves disputes between CBP and other agencies with substantial responsibilities for imports.
“The world is changing faster than ever before—and it’s up to us to keep pace with technology, with forward looking processes, and close partnerships,” said Aguilar. “The future is now—and with your help we intend to deeply lean forward and to lead it that way.”