Have you ever experienced inconsistency at the hands of U.S. Customs? Ever had shipments of similar or even identical goods classified differently at different ports of entry?
Chances are, you have. This isn't really that surprising, given that import assessment and decision-making has historically been done by whichever Customs official is on duty at whichever port of entry your shipment happens to come through. The result of this system, as you may well know, is inefficiency and unpredictability. And that’s not good for business.
But times are changing. Over the past two years, U.S. Customs has been phasing in the use of Centers of Excellence and Expertise (CEEs). CEEs are Customs’ way of centralizing decision-making on an industry-specific basis, independent of the location where the goods enter the country.
The centres reflect CBP's increased focus on "Trade in the 21st Century" – transforming customs procedures to align with modern business. The CEEs will also serve as resources for information on their industry “specialties” for both U.S. government partners and the broader trade community.
Currently numbering ten, with more in the works, each CEE focuses on a particular industry or industry sector, staffed by officials with in-depth knowledge of that area. The purposes of these virtual centres are several: to help lower the trades’ cost of business; to provide greater consistency and predictability to importers; to centralize expertise and serve as a resource on each industry; and to enhance Customs’ enforcement efforts, allowing them to more easily identify any players who are breaking the rules.
What are the 10 centers?
Teams of industry specialists are headquartered in various locations, with Customs officials at ports of entry “detailed” to work with the various CEEs. The existing CEEs are:
- Agriculture & Prepared Products, coordinated from Miami, specializes in agriculture, aquaculture, animal products, vegetable products, prepared foods, beverages, alcohol, tobacco or similar industries.
- Apparel, Footwear & Textiles, coordinated from San Francisco, specializes in wearing apparel, footwear, textile mill, textile mill products, or similar industries.
- Automotive & Aerospace, coordinated from Detroit, specializes in automotive, aerospace, or other transportation equipment and related parts industries.
- Base Metals, coordinated from Chicago, specializes in steel, steel mill products, ferrous and nonferrous metal, or similar industries.
- Consumer Products & Mass Merchandising, coordinated from Atlanta, specializes in household goods, consumer products, or similar industries and mass merchandisers of products typically sold for home use.
- Electronics, coordinated from Los Angeles, specializes in information technology, integrated circuits, automated data processing equipment, and consumer electronics.
- Industrial & Manufacturing Materials, coordinated from Buffalo, specializes in plastics, polymers, rubber, leather, wood, paper, stone, glass, precious stones and precious metals, or similar industries.
- Machinery, coordinated from Laredo, specializes in tools, machine tools, production equipment, instruments, or similar industries.
- Petroleum, Natural Gas & Minerals, coordinated from Houston, specializes in petroleum, natural gas, petroleum related products, minerals, and mining industries.
- Pharmaceuticals, Health & Chemicals, coordinated from New York, specializes in pharmaceuticals, health-related equipment, and products of the chemical and allied industries.
So yes – Customs is getting smarter! And now is the time to ensure your business is compliant. If it’s not, the specialized knowledge and greater scrutiny that go along with the CEE model may create hassles for you at the border.
Contact your local Cole Consulting Representative for assistance in ensuring your business continues to operate smoothly with U.S. border clearance in the new world of CEEs.
Information provided by: U.S. Customs Dept. - Cole International