NCBFAA urges Commerce Department to preserve secrecy of export documentation

In a letter to Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, Federico Zuniga, president of the National Customs Brokers & Forwarders Association of America (NCBFAA), encouraged him to continue the Department of Commerce’s long-standing policy of safeguarding competition-sensitive export information as it establishes mandatory filing of data through the Automated Export System (AES).

The NCBFAA’s concern arose when both Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Department of Homeland Security refused to approve regulations clarifying filers' responsibilities under the law and implementing the statutory requirement for mandatory filing through AES.

Central to the controversy is a CBP demand for concessions on AES "option 4" and on the availability of Census data to foreign governments. Census has, by statute, the responsibility to keep their export data confidential; CBP wants to make some data available to foreign governments in order to comport with the recent World Customs Organization security agreements.

“Respectfully, we need hardly remind you of the consequences of competition-sensitive export information flowing freely to foreign governments and then perhaps on to our competitors overseas,” Zuniga says. “Nor need we mention the statutory safeguards that Census and the Department have so assiduously preserved.”

As to option 4, which permits the shipping of data in advance of the exporting providing 100% of the required AES data, CBP wants to carve back on the agreement made between themselves, Census and the private sector some time ago. For example, CBP does not want to "grandfather in" previous option 4 exporters.

“Option 4 poses no threat to our security: ‘grandfathered’ participants are our most reputable US firms,” Zuniga states. “Option 4 helps expedite the shipment of U.S. exports at a time when we need to be enhancing the flow of goods outbound, not finding ways to slow them down.”

The NCBFAA urges Commerce to stay the course on these issues and protect American exports. “Census has been vigilant to the consequences of CBP’s demands,” Zuniga says, “and now, as the issue is elevated to a discourse with DHS, we are even more reliant on your effective representation of our exporters’ interests.”

The NCBFAA represents nearly 800 member companies with 100,000 employees in international trade, including freight forwarders, customs brokers, ocean transportation intermediaries, NVOCCs and air cargo agents,

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