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Manufacturing

Homeland insecurities

By Andy Barks

On Jan. 2, 2008, U.S. Customs and Border Protectionissued a proposed rule requiring importers and carriers entering the country to electronically submit additional information on their cargo before it was transported by vessel. The intention of the security filing, known as the 10+2 rule, was to "better assess and identify high-risk shipments to prevent terrorist weapons and materials from entering the United States."

However, according to many trade associations, the provision contained a few flaws--not to mention impracticalities. Seven months after the CBP proposed the 10+2 rule, 40 groups, including the National Association of Manufacturers, Washington, D.C., signed a letter to Congress, requesting an alteration of the proposal, specifically through the establishment of a prototype program.

The letter served as a sort of plea for Congress to consider reducing the number of new categories of data to be collected on U.S.-bound container shipments from 10. It also allowed the aligned associations to propose some stipulations. In its original form, the rule specified the number of data categories and the window of time, but it offered no plan for gradual implementation or testing of its effectiveness.

The main function of the prototype program would be to ensure that such a measure is not only feasible but also realistic.

"[The rule] would add tremendous cost to U.S. manufacturing at a time when increasing global competition and a slowing domestic economy are creating new stresses on U.S. manufacturers from every sector," said Catherine Robinson, associate director for high-tech trade policy at NAM, in a press release. "National security and trade facilitation need not be mutually exclusive. National security can be enhanced without impeding commerce."

The prototype program, as laid out by Robinson and other association leaders, would enable customs to eliminate systematic flaws prior to actual implementation. Theoretically, a trial run would save both the government and businesses time and money by eliminating the eventual need for on-the-fly adjustments.

As of mid-August, NAM President John Engler was still fighting to be heard by the Department of Homeland Security. There had not been--and no plans were in the works for--any tests or pilot plans devised for the 10+2 rule.

"[DHS Security Secretary Michael] Chertoff needs to take a step back and take a hard look at this rule," said Engler in a press release. "It could have a serious impact on our economy and national security. The NAM is more than willing to work with DHS and CBP to improve the rule."

Engler's primary issue with CBP lies in its lack of logistics. As currently proposed, the rule mandates that shipment containers must sit in foreign posts for several days while awaiting clearance. Aside from the inefficiency of the approach, there's also the issue of tampering. Engler and Robinson have argued, to little avail, that the risk of materials being damaged or altered will be enhanced should they be made to sit idly.

"It's important to recognize importers who have gone to great lengths and worked tirelessly with CBP to secure their supply chains," added Engler, who still favors a rigorous pilot program. "Unfortunately, the proposed rule doesn't utilize risk management principles by treating all importers ... alike." FFJ

Sources

  • National Association of Manufacturers
    Washington, D.C.
    phone: 202/637-3000
    fax: 202/637-3182
    www.nam.org
    e-mail: manufacturing@nam.org

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