What exactly is Mutual Recognition?
Mutual Recognition (MR) refers to those activities associated with the signing of a document
between U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and a foreign Customs Administration
that provides for the exchange of information. The document, referred to as an “arrangement”, indicates that the security requirements or standards of the foreign industry partnership program, as well as its verification procedures, are the same or similar with those of the C-TPAT program. Mutual Recognition Arrangements (MRA), therefore, are bilateral understandings between two Customs Administrations.
The essential concept of MR is that C-TPAT and the foreign program have established a standard set of security requirements which allows one business partnership program to recognize the validation findings of the other program. This leads to a series of benefits to both Customs Administrations and to the private sector participants.
The goal of MR is to link the various international industry partnership programs so that together they create a unified and sustainable security posture that can assist in securing and facilitating global cargo trade. It means end to end supply chain security based on program membership.
Is Mutual Recognition as a concept recognized by the World Customs Organization
Mutual Recognition as a concept is reflected in the WCO’s Framework of Standards to Secure and Facilitate Global Trade (SAFE Framework), a strategy designed with the support of the United States and being implemented by Customs administrations around the world. The SAFE Framework calls for Customs administrations to develop industry partnership programs which the Framework refers to as Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) programs. An AEO is defined by the Framework as “… a party involved in the international movement of goods in whatever function that has been approved by or on behalf of a national Customs administration
as complying with WCO or equivalent supply chain security standards”.
The SAFE Framework is structured with two supporting pillars: Customs-to-Customs and Customs-to-Business. The concept of mutual recognition is reflected in the Customs-to-Customs pillar, that is, the ability of Customs administrations to work together to improve their capability to detect high-risk consignments and expedite the movement of legitimate cargo. This cooperation between Customs administrations assists the Customs-to-Business pillar by providing standardized security requirements of their AEO programs.
Who has the United States signed Mutual Recognition Arrangements with?
CBP has signed six MRAs:
New Zealand – June 2007 – New Zealand Customs Service’s Secure Export
Scheme Program – SES
Canada – June 2008 – Canada Border Services Agency’s Partners in
Protection Program – PIP
Jordan – June 2008 – Jordan Customs Department’s Golden List Program – GLP
Japan – June 2009 – Japan Customs and Tariff Bureau’s Authorized Economic
Operator Program – AEO
Korea – June 2010 – Korea Customs Service’s (KCS) Authorized Economic Operator
Program – AEO
European Union (EU) – May 2012 – EU’s Taxation and Customs Union Directorate
(TAXUD) – AEO
Does CBP Plan to sign additional Mutual Recognition Arrangements?
Yes. CBP is currently working multiple Customs Administrations with the goal of achieving Mutual Recognition.
Have other Customs Administrations around the world signed MRA between
Yes. While the United States has signed six MRAs so far, other Customs Administrations have already signed or plan to sign their own arrangements in the near future. Japan and New Zealand, for instance, signed a MRA in May 2008.
What does it take to achieve Mutual Recognition with the United States?
Many factors are taken into account before CBP engages a foreign Customs Administration towards Mutual Recognition, including the risk associated with the supply lines originating in a specific country.Three pre-requisites must be met before CBP begins to discuss MR with a Foreign Customs
1. The foreign Customs Administration must have a full fledged operational program in
place – i.e. not a program in development or a pilot program.
2. The foreign partnership program must have a strong validation process built into its
3. The foreign partnership program must have a strong security component built into its program.
To pursue MR with a Customs Administration that does not have an equivalent security related trusted trader program in place would not be beneficial to CBP as it could potentially compromise the cargo security processes the agency has in place to secure world trade. National security will always be the focus of these efforts and CBP will not rush to sign any arrangement where there is less than full understanding of security processes in place.
What are the steps required to achieve MR with the United States?
C-TPAT developed a MR process that has been accepted worldwide and has been used by other Customs Administrations as they sign their own MRAs. The C-TPAT mutual recognition process involves four (4) phases:
1. A side-by-side comparison of the program requirements. This is designed to determine if the programs align on basic principles.
2. A pilot program of joint validation visits. This is designed to determine if the programs align in basic practice.
3. The signing of a mutual recognition arrangement.
4. The development of mutual recognition operational procedures, primarily those
associated with information sharing.
Does Mutual Recognition recognize both security and Customs compliance issues?
No. Mutual recognition is based solely on security; specifically, it is based on the Foreign Customs partnership program having similar security criteria and verification procedures as those of the C-TPAT program. C-TPAT is not a compliance program, therefore compliance issues should not be linked to mutual recognition.
Why is it called an “arrangement”?
The precedent that U.S. Customs and Border Protection has established as the proper legal mechanism to achieve MR is though an “arrangement” that falls under the umbrella of existing Customs Mutual Assistance Agreements. Arrangements are non-binding documents which allow for flexibility; furthermore, they take less time to process and sign into action.
Does Mexico have a similar program in place? Any plans to do so?
Mexico’s program, Nuevo Esquema de Empresas Certificadas (NEEC) was launched on December 15, 2011, and started accepting new partner applications on January 1, 2012.
Presently, it is only open to manufacturers located in Mexico. NEEC has adopted C-TPAT’s minimum security criteria, validation process, and is considering
mirroring its own validation reports to those of C-TPAT. C-TPAT and NEEC developed a strategy to recognize C-TPAT manufacturers into Mexico’s
program. The main objectives of this strategy are to help both programs synchronize
procedures and standards to ensure maximum compatibility. This will eventually facilitate the road towards mutual recognition between the United States and Mexico.
C-TPAT has provided technical assistance and guidance to the Mexican Government in the past and will continue to do so in the future.
Are companies doing business in a country that has Mutual Recognition with the United States exempt from filing the 24 hour advanced cargo declaration with CBP or the importer security filing data commonly referred to as 10+2?
Mutual Recognition does not exempt any partner, whether domestic or foreign, from complying with other CBP mandated requirements. By the same token, mutual recognition does not replace any of CBP’s cargo enforcement strategies. Importers, for instance, still need to comply with the importer security filing requirements; they are still required to submit to CBP electronically and 24 hours prior to lading the 10 trade data elements required under this mandate.
What are the benefits of Mutual Recognition?
Both Customs Administrations and the private sector reap benefits out of a mutual recognition arrangement, including:
Efficiency: C-TPAT does not have to expend resources to send its staff overseas to
validate a facility that has been certified by a foreign partnership program.
Risk Assessment Tool: The status of the foreign partnership program participant is
recognized by C-TPAT and it is used as a risk-assessment factor. A C-TPAT validation
visit will be conducted on a different segment of the C-TPAT importer’s supply chain.
Less Redundancy/Duplication of Efforts: Foreign companies do not have to go
through two separate validation visits: the first one conducted by the local Customs
administration as the company is initially certified by its business partnership program, followed by the one that C-TPAT would have to conduct if no MRA was in place.
Moreover, companies only have to go through one revalidation visit in the future.
Common Standard/Trade Facilitation: Companies only have to conform to one set of security requirements. Avoiding the burden of addressing different sets of requirements as a shipment moves through the supply chain in different countries facilitates international trade. Since C-TPAT’s minimum security criteria has become the world’s standard, once a company complies with C-TPAT’s criteria, that company essentially complies with the security criteria of those countries the U.S. has reached MR with: Japan, Canada, New Zealand, Jordan and the European Union. Finally, since MR is based on having equally stringent minimum security criteria, companies will have an easier task when they have to conduct their required annual self-assessments.
Transparency: Closer collaboration among Customs Administrations and their
partnership program companies will lead to more transparency in international commerce. Information exchanged between these partners expedites and facilitates the movement of commerce across nations.