The trade community expressed optimism that business and government leaders will work together to transform trade processes and improve the pace and security of cross-border commerce during the March 6 meeting of the Advisory Committee on Commercial Operations of U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Washington, D.C.

The committee, known as COAC, gathered for the first meeting of its 13th two-year term despite the federal government’s closure for bad weather. More than 500 people participated in the public meeting, in person and via webcast. The term began with a restructuring of the subcommittees and work groups where the heavy lifting and substantive COAC achievements take place.

“COAC subcommittees are critically important,” said CBP Deputy Commissioner David V. Aguilar in his comments to the group. “We’ve restructured how we will prioritize on the path forward for the next couple of years,” said Aguilar.

“You do this because of your interest in something that’s critically important to our nation,” Aguilar told committee members. “You have brought substance to what we have done and I thank you for that and for what you are going to accomplish through 2015.”

Members of each subcommittee and CBP staff outlined subcommittee work plans and noted how the next steps will build on prior achievements.

Trade Modernization Subcommittee: CBP’s Centers of Excellence and Expertise will continue as a main subcommittee focus, as will the Automated Commercial Environment, known as ACE, and the role of the broker. “I think this is the most encouraging position that we have been in for making progress on ACE,” said Timothy Skud, Treasury Department deputy assistant secretary of tax, trade and tariff policy and COAC co-chair.

Trusted Trader Subcommittee: The subcommittee plans to construct a “true authorized economic operator program,” said subcommittee chair William Ferguson, vice president for security services, NYK Line Inc. He noted that the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism will remain and stand as a “pillar of supply-chain security.”

One U.S. Government at the Border Subcommittee: One subcommittee goal is to submit one set of data and receive a single CBP release, which may seem simple, but actually is quite challenging for the multiple government agencies involved, said Mary Ann Comstock, subcommittee co-chair and assistant secretary and northern border compliance manager, UPS Supply Chain Solutions Inc. The group looks forward to implementing the One U.S. Government Master Principles Document.

Trade Enforcement and Revenue Collection Subcommittee: This new subcommittee blends the former intellectual property rights, bonds and antidumping/countervailing duty subcommittees and adds regulatory audit. Its goal is to develop recommendations to help CBP enforce trade laws while facilitating trade, said Karen Kenney, subcommittee co-chair and chief operating officer of Liberty International, Inc. “We want to drive the conversation on metrics of IPR enforcement,” said Kenney. Also Matthew Fass, subcommittee co-chair and president of Maritime Products International, reemphasized the subcommittee’s commitment to helping CBP to address antidumping/countervailing challenges.

Global Supply Chain Subcommittee: Recent natural disasters with their potential for trade disruption have underscored the need for systems that secure trade and the global supply chain, said Jim Phillips, subcommittee co-chair and senior manager for customs at General Motors LLC. He touched on one of the brightest business-government co-creation success stories, the Air Cargo Advance Screening pilot program. Dan Baldwin, CBP executive director for cargo and conveyance security, noted that 82 percent of all air cargo is facilitated by this screening program, which is slated to begin the transition from pilot to permanent regulatory implementation

Exports Subcommittee: This subcommittee will focus on mapping U.S. and international export programs, policies and metrics to identify opportunities for growth and improvement, said Julie Ann Parks, subcommittee co-chair and senior manager, export/import operations, Raytheon Co.

To acknowledge the contributions of Aguilar, who is retiring from federal service at the end of the month, Ted Sherman, director of global trade services for Target Corp., cited the deputy commissioner’s “innovation and common-sense solutions to complex issues” and his “sense of humor and intellectual curiosity.”

Seven new COAC members took their oath of service at the start of the meeting. They join the 13 continuing members to represent before CBP the diversity of interests of the trade community.

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