A U.S.-Mexico agreement to work more closely on cross-border customs security may mark a milestone toward establishing an integrated North American customs-enforcement program-- which could greatly expedite freight movements over the U.S-Canada and U.S.-Mexico borders.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency and Mexico’s Tax Administration Service (SAT) on Friday signed a “mutual recognition arrangement” (MRA) that CBP said will foster “stronger collaboration” between the CBP's Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) and SAT's New Certified Companies Scheme (NEEC) program.
“This is a significant milestone for both the United States and Mexico and the facilitation of secure trade between the two countries,” remarked CBP Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske, at the signing ceremony in San Diego.
“This agreement,” Rojas explained, “establishes mutual recognition of each country’s programs. Although companies will still have to apply separately to join both programs, this cross-recognition will expedite the processing.”
CBP stated in a news release that by linking the U.S. and Mexican industry-partnership programs via the MRA, a “unified and sustainable security posture” can be formed to “assist in securing and facilitating global cargo trade.”
The agency said the MRA provides such “tangible and intangible benefits to program members” as: fewer exams when shipping cargo, a faster validation process, common standards, efficiency for Customs and business, transparency between Customs administrations, and front-of-the-line processing.
According to ATA’s Rojas, who attended the MRA signing, “the agreement with Mexico had been expected. “The U.S. and Canada jointly developed FAST [Free And Secure Trade for Commercial Vehicles] program quickly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks increased border-security concerns. Then Mexico became part of it, so FAST is now a North American program.
“What we’d like to see developed ultimately ,” continued Rojas, “is a single North American program for cross-border customs compliance that would expedite freight movements. What’s holding that up are domestic concerns [of the three governments] regarding control of such programs. But we need to get there because the economies of the U.S., Canada and Mexico are so tightly woven together.”
Rojas added that, in his view, the signing of the U.S.-Mexico MRA “can be seen as part of the ongoing conversation between the three customs agencies in North America on working more closely together.”
C-TPAT is a voluntary government-business initiative to develop cooperative relationships that strengthen and improve overall international supply chain and U.S. border security. The program establishes clear supply-chain security criteria for members to meet and in return provides incentives and benefits, such as expedited processing.
Launched in 2001, CT-PAT now has over 10,000 certified partners enlisted in the program. These include U.S. importers, U.S./Canada highway carriers; U.S./Mexico highway carriers; licensed U.S. Customs brokers; U.S. freight consolidators; Mexican and Canadian manufacturers and Mexican long‐haul carriers. CPB noted that the certified partners account for over 50% (by value) of what is imported into the U.S.
According to CBP, C‐TPAT members are “considered low‐risk and are therefore less likely to be examined. This designation is based on a company's past compliance history, security profile, and the validation of a sample international supply chain.”
Along with Mexico, the U.S. has inked MRAs with Canada, the European Union, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Israel, Jordan and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office.