Importers currently can file required forms electronically to a CBP-authorized electronic data interchange system, by paper, or a combination of both (hybrid filing). When importers file a paper or hybrid entry, they fill out the required documents on their computer, print the documents, and then send the documents to their broker or to the port of entry by either mail or a courier. CBP is considering proposing a rule to require importers to choose between submitting the required entry and entry summary documentation (including ITDS Agency documents) entirely electronically or entirely by paper. CBP would no longer accept any hybrid filings, except in limited circumstances. This would mean that if an importer files one paper document not covered by the limited exceptions, the entire filing, including the report to CBP, must be on paper.
This ill-timed and ill-advised proposal comes at a time when CBP and the entire trade community have made great progress on rolling out CBP’s next-generation system known as the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE). The system has been under design and development since the late 1980’s and will ultimately be the engine for the International Trade Data System (ITDS). The ITDS platform will become the “single window” through which the government and trade exchange data and messages on import and export consignments. To fully develop and deploy ITDS requires bringing almost forty other federal agencies (known as PGA’s or Partnering Government Agencies) to the table to discuss their requirement and data specifications. Some of those other agencies over the years have resisted and/or come along kicking and screaming; until President Obama signed an Executive Order on February 19, 2014 requiring them to participate by December 2016. Now the laggard agencies are in a scramble to get their requirements and specifications written and to get the necessary programing accomplished. And of course, there needs to be adequate time devoted to proper testing or the consequences could be disastrous.
But now, in their haste to force the trade’s hand and before some of the PGA’s have even completed coding their portion of ITDS, CBP throws down this almost laughable ultimatum to the trade. I could hardly believe my eyes when I first read it. As we are all of the verge of successfully completing the ACE deployment after toiling for seventeen long years to deploy the system; what’s the rush? CBP’s proposal to eliminate hybrid entries and force “all electronic” or “all paper” is not only a disservice the trade community but to CBP as well. It begs several questions? First, what’s happened to the common sensed phased-in approach CBP has used for other trade programs? Where’s the partnership? Are the more than 300 CBP Ports prepared to go back to a blizzard of paper? How many CBP employees even know how to process a paper entry? When the paper is delivered what will happen to it? Will a CBP employee rekey into a system? That seems redundant, counterproductive and very expensive. What happens if the CBP employee doing the keying makes an error? What happens if CBP is unable to keep up with the volumes of paper? Why is the elimination of hybrid entries necessary? What purpose does it serve? Just to make a point that you’re in a big hurry now after seventeen years? For the sanity of all involved and the continued flow of commerce, the capability to process hybrid entries is needed until ACE and ITDS are completely and fully deployed and tested. CBP should be encouraged to continue ACE implementation with a level-head and keeping flexibility and facilitation foremost in their mind.
If this article has inspired you to write comments you may download an Adobe copy by following this link CBP Federal Register Notice – Proposal to Eliminate Hybrid Entries. Remember, you have until November 12 to submit your comments. You may submit comments electronically, identified by docket number USCBP–2015–0045, by visiting the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.
To download an Adobe copy of this article please follow this link: One Step Forward Two Back