What are the Centers for Excellence and Expertise?

CBP is changing how it does business. CBP envisions an end to port shopping and uniform decision making throughout all ports of entry via use of the Centers of Excellence and Expertise (CEE). We previously advised our readers that a CEE was arriving in Miami!

By way of background, in 2012, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) published a Federal Register notice (77 FR 52048) that “developed a test to incrementally transition the operational trade functions that traditionally reside with port directors to the CEE.” The purpose of the test was to expand the CEEs’ ability to make decisions, by allowing the directors of the CEE to make decisions that were normally reserved for port directors. CBP’s goal for the CEEs is to “facilitate trade, reduce transaction costs, increase compliance with applicable port laws, and to achieve uniformity of treatment at the ports of entry for the identified industries (77 FR 52048).”

CBP discussed the application process, and urged importers to apply to a CEE to begin receiving the benefits of being a participating account early.

The 10 CEE’s to choose from are (including the ports of entry they operate out of):

  • Agriculture and Prepared Products; Miami, Florida
  • Apparel, Footwear and Textiles; San Francisco, California
  • Automotive and Aerospace; Detroit, Michigan
  • Base Metals; Chicago, Illinois
  • Consumer Products and Mass Merchandising; Atlanta, Georgia
  • Electronics; Los Angeles, California
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Materials; Buffalo, New York
  • Machinery; Laredo, Texas
  • Petroleum, Natural Gas and Minerals; Houston, Texas
  • Pharmaceuticals, Health and Chemicals; New York, New York

On December 20, 2016, CBP ended the testing period and entered the interim final rule. The interim final rule amended the CBP regulations “to implement this organizational change by:

  • Defining the Centers and the Center directors;
  • Amending the definition for port directors to distinguish their functions from those of the Center directors;
  • Identifying the Center management offices; explaining the process by which importers will be assigned to Centers;
  • Providing importer with an appeals process for its Center assignment;
  • Identifying the regulatory functions that will be transitioned from the port directors to the Center directors and those that will be jointly carried out by the port directors and the Center directors; and
  • Providing clarification in applicable regulations that payments and documents may continue to be submitted at the ports of entry or electronically.”

The interim final rule was supposed to be effective 30 days after December 20, 2016, however, on January 27, 2017, CBP published in the Federal Register that they were going to provide “an additional 60 days for interested parties to submit comments on the interim final rule.”

CBP wants as much public participation as possible, so they have extended the comment period to March 20, 2017.

Are you an Interested Party? Here’s what you can do:

  1. If you are an interested party, and want to make your voice heard, CBP wants to hear arguments, views, or written data on every aspect of the interim rule.
  2. The comment should include a reference to a specific portion of the interim rule and “explain the reason for any recommended change, and include data information, or authority that support such recommended change.”

If you have comments on the interim final rule, Diaz Trade Law would be pleased to assist you in submitting them to the CBP.

What are the benefits of the CEEs?

The most crucial benefit is that these Centers are considered experts in their field. Each center collaborates with key industry sectors which helps importers in a specific area to get better information on business processes and products. By being an expert, there is a “greater understanding of the industry issues” and allows for “an industry-focused resource for both the trade and CBP”. CEEs also exist to help get rid of duplicative work for importers (think less CBP 28s), which helps importers in having greater predictability, less cargo delays, and reduces costs for importers. CEEs also “serve as a centralized source for trade inquiries.” This helps in establishing better transparency and uniformity for trade; and streamlines the “inquiry process for resolving issues.”

Will the Process of Importing be Different?

An importer will not need to change where they import into nor will the entry process change. The CEEs are a virtual environment. However, “CBP processing for post-release aspects of shipments will simply be redirected from the Ports of Entry to the appropriate industry Center.” Since the CEEs operate virtually, imports will be placed into a Center based on whichever business practice the importer is associated with and the harmonized tariff schedule [HTSUS] “tariff classification of the predominant number of goods imported.” Also, once an importer has been placed in a Center, that Center will process the post-release no matter what the tariff classification of the imported merchandise.

The bottom line is the CEE’s are OFFICIALLY here. If you have not yet applied to be a participating account, you will NOT be assigned a contact within the CEE. Now’s the time to figure out which CEE you belong to, express your interest to join the CEE (you may have to wait until new applicants are accepted), and learn how to work with and enjoy the new benefits the CEE’s offer!

If you want help identifying which CEE you should join, requesting to participate in a CEE, or commenting on the interim final rule, contact info@diaztradelaw.com today!