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October 30, 2008 

CBP's New Trade Strategy Includes Beefed-Up Enforcement

At today's Trade Symposium in Washington, DC, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner W. Ralph Basham announced the release of CBP's first Trade Strategy (pdf), a document that details how CBP intends to accomplish its mission of facilitating legitimate trade during the next five years. The document explains that the four major goals of CBP's trade strategy are to:

  • Facilitate legitimate trade and ensure compliance;
  • Enforce U.S. trade laws and collect accurate revenue;
  • Advance national and economic security; and
  • Intensify modernization of CBP’s trade processes.
The Trade Strategy contains a number of statements that should be of great interest and concern to U.S. importers.

One of the compliance-related objective set forth in the Trade Strategy is an expansion of CBP's audit program and other post-entry reviews, such as quick response audits, "to verify compliance, improve [importers'] internal controls, and validate the accuracy of duty payments to help close the revenue gap.

The document also indicates that CBP plans to "execute appropriate enforcement actions" to change non-compliant importer behavior and to "produce public information campaigns for deterrence purposes that detail trade law enforcement success and consequences of violation." Another part of CBP's trade strategy is "to issue significant and timely penalties to correct non-compliant importer behavior." Importantly, the document states that CBP intends to engage the Justice Department in the penalty process and "collaborate with them to enforce U.S. trade laws and initiate collection actions, as necessary, to effectively collect the penalties issues."

CBP's Trade Strategy represents a significant change in direction. As a result, U.S. importers should expect to see an increase in the number of CF-28s (Requests for Information) and CF-29s (Notices of Action) issued by CBP import specialists as well as an increased number of enforcement actions and Focused Assessments conducted by CBP.

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