The following is excerpted from the 15 April 2010 edition of “American Shipper”.
At a House hearing on efforts to combat Mexican drug cartels and reduce violence on the Southwest border, new U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Alan Bersin emphasized that properly designed security measures can protect the nation without harming commerce.
“We can be economically competitive as we enhance our security. We will adopt strategies that simultaneously improve security and expedite legitimate trade and travel,” Bersin said in his first testimony before Congress since being appointed by President Barack Obama in late March without going through the Senate confirmation process.
CBP’s refrain during the past eight years has been that it’s twin missions are border security and trade facilitation, although many importers and exporters say security requirements still trump efforts to simplify Customs clearance and compliance procedures.
Bersin, who spent the previous year as Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s special representative on southwest border affairs, told the House Appropriations homeland security subcommittee that he wants to build on trusted trader and traveler programs such as FAST, SENTRI, NEXUS and Global Entry.
The Free and Secure Trade (FAST) program offers expedited clearance for carriers and shippers enrolled in the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism program by reducing the amount of documentation required at crossing, providing dedicating lanes to FAST participants and reducing inspection levels. Under the program, drivers must be pre-vetted as low-risk through a review of their identification and citizenship documents.
SENTRI and NEXUS are southern and northern border programs, respectively, that allow registered travelers to speed through border checkpoints and Global Entry offers the same benefit at airports for international travelers.
“We can have enhanced security while reducing the cost and inconvenience to legitimate trade and travelers” through better targeting that allows Customs officers to focus on the small amount of illegitimate inbound cargo that poses a potential safety and security risk, Bersin said….