U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Chris Magnus hosted members of the 16th term Commercial Customs Operations Advisory Committee, known as COAC, as they gathered on Wednesday, June 29, for their second public meeting at CBP’s Advanced Training Center in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. “I’m grateful to be able to convene this meeting and continue what I think is one of the most important things we can do, which is build relationships with the trade community to improve how we do enforcement, but perhaps even more importantly, facilitation,” said Magnus.
The commissioner, a co-chair of the proceedings, shared several trade updates. The first pertained to the 21st Century Customs Framework, a CBP initiative that addresses current and future trade challenges and modernization barriers. “I am encouraged by the significant progress CBP and the 21st Century Task Force have made over the past several months,” said Magnus. “The 21st Century focus group has submitted a report ahead of today’s public meeting that formally expresses support of nearly half of the 21st Century Customs Framework legislative package. So, progress certainly is being made. I very much appreciate COAC’s input on the discussion drafts that we have so far and the work that continues to be done to shape a legislative framework that meets the needs of the modern customs environment.”
Magnus also spoke about the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which was signed into law by President Biden in December. “We implemented the rebuttable presumption process that just went into effect on June 21st,” he said. Under the rebuttable presumption, the importation of goods mined, produced, or manufactured wholly or in part in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in northwest China is prohibited from entering the U.S. The same is true for goods produced by certain entities identified on the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act Entity List.
“I understand that it’s going to impact businesses,” said Magnus. “We so much appreciate the cooperation that we’ve gotten so far. It has made a tremendous difference. I think we all share the same goals, and that’s a safe, secure supply chain that is free of exploitation of so many vulnerable individuals.”
Magnus added, “We’re committed to enforcing this act with consistency, transparency, and working with you—all of the trade community—to do something that is very important for us, and that is to eliminate forced labor from U.S. supply chains. I indicated before taking this position, before being appointed that this was one of my highest priorities. I certainly recognized right from the start that we cannot be effective in doing this without working together. So, the work and the help that you provided us with really is critical.”
Magnus also spoke about CBP’s first Green Trade Strategy, an agency-wide strategic plan that is aimed at lowering carbon emissions and addressing the impacts of climate change as it relates to trade. “The strategy lays out CBP’s vision for establishing CBP as a champion for the green economy and a leader in the fight against climate change,” he said.
“While this is the first official strategy, CBP has prioritized combating climate change already in several ways,” Magnus said. “For example, in fiscal year 2021, we set a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from both purchased and CBP controlled power sources by 35%, and we surpassed this original goal I think pretty impressively, achieving a 64% reduction in emissions compared to fiscal year 2008 emissions.”
Magnus also noted that CBP has purchased electric vehicles and charging stations and has designed CBP facilities to be more energy efficient. “So, the Green Trade Strategy will be a continuation and expansion of CBP’s green trade efforts and for integrating environmental considerations into our day-to-day operations,” he explained.
Magnus also shared news of the retirement of Timothy Skud, his fellow COAC co-chair, in his opening remarks. “Mr. Skud retired from the Department of Treasury after what without question has been an exceptional career in public service. He has led the effort to implement the single window system and the International Trade Data System. I would like to wish him nothing but the very best in retirement,” said Magnus.
Two new officials were welcomed at the meeting. Tom West, the U.S. Department of Treasury’s deputy assistant secretary for tax policy, who co-chaired the meeting, and Felicia Pullam, the new executive director of CBP’s Office of Trade Relations. Pullam began her career working on corporate responsibility in supply chain issues for an American company in China. “Since I returned home to the U.S. in 2009, I’ve had the opportunity to work on trade from both the state and federal perspectives,” said Pullam. “At the state level, we worked a lot with small businesses to help them understand the resources at the federal level.” Pullam later became the director of outreach for SelectUSA, a U.S. Department of Commerce led federal program that promotes and facilitates business investment into the U.S.
Trade co-chair Brian White, the senior international trade advisor at computer technology giant Intel, spoke on behalf of the COAC. “The trade environment continues to present challenges for our COAC members as well as our colleagues in trade. We have no shortage of new legislation that’s sweeping the trade sector or supply chain constraints across the globe, and we’re really looking forward to continuing our COAC to help address this changing landscape of trade alongside CBP,” said White, further noting that “Our members have had a very productive quarter, a very fast quarter, especially for those new members who have been onboarded.”
The meeting also included updates on trade programs and COAC subcommittee work. A total of 45 recommendations were presented and unanimously passed. Twelve of the recommendations pertained to forced labor, five focused on partnership programs and industry engagement, three concerned the 21st Century Customs Framework and one dealt with export modernization. The remaining 24 recommendations focused on in-bond regulations.
Announcements were made regarding the next COAC meeting, which will be held on Sept. 14, and CBP’s Trade Facilitation and Cargo Security Summit, scheduled for July 18-20, 2022, in Anaheim, California.
COAC is a 20-member advisory committee that was established by Congress in 1987. The committee provides advice and recommendations to CBP and the Department of the Treasury on the commercial operations of CBP and trade-related interdepartmental functions. Some of the issues that COAC focuses on include enhanced border and supply chain security, international efforts to harmonize customs practices and procedures, import safety, compliance, and modernization and automation processes used to facilitate trade.