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CBP Eyeing New Tech Solutions to ‘Interesting Times’


Amid continually escalating tensions between the United States and its key trading partners, Brenda Smith took time during her keynote address at the 2019 AIAG Customs Town Hall to acknowledge some of the challenges in the industry.

“It’s been a very, very interesting last 24 to 36 months. What it has not been is easy,” says Smith, executive assistant commissioner, Office of Trade for U.S. Customs and Border Protection. “We’ve had nearly 35 policy changes or executive proclamations. We’ve had to get very agile in understanding and interpreting what the policy goal is, writing legal documents, implementing, and enforcing.”

In rising to these challenges, Smith says CBP is pursuing a number of new programs — such as AI, block chain, and other big data processing — and noted that the automotive industry has an important role to play in the genesis of these.

“We recognize the importance of the automotive voice,” she says. “We need the engagement of the automotive and parts industry at the table. None of us can predict what is going to happen in the next 36 months. But we know we need to continue to be global leaders, and to do that, this community needs to have a voice.”

AIAG's Customs Town Hall, an annual gathering of importers, exporters, and associated service providers, is a forum for new and ongoing programs that impact customs clearance, compliance programs, and cost. This year's program — held Nov. 7th in Lathrup Village, Michigan — focused on developments in trade policy, discussed effective best practices for trade compliance programs, and offered critical insight into understanding how the trade and U.S. CBP can work together toward more effective relationships.

One of the areas Smith and the CBP are focused on is defining customs and trade policies for emerging and traditional economies, especially regarding e-commerce.

“We’ve seen tremendous change in the area of e-commerce,” she says. “In fiscal 2018, there was a 46 percent increase in e-commerce. International mail has increased by 205 percent in the past 5 years. We are in awe of the volume: 700 million packages a year.

“There are so many new players,” she continues, “beyond just new importers and platforms. Remember Amazon started as a book seller, and now they own planes and drones and are shipping worldwide.”

To better deal with these volumes as they continue to increase, Smith says the CBP is looking for AI- and block-chain-powered solutions.

“At the end of the day, we want to facilitate low-cost shipments. To do that we have to ensure seamless data sharing and access across all government departments,” she says. “There are amazing technologies available that are only getting more powerful, more useful. Deploying AI offers so many ways to streamline procedures. We are trying to understand how to apply AI tools across the wealth of data CBP collects.”

All of this, as Smith mentioned, amid very interesting and quickly changing times.

“Part of rolling out this technology will require us to get people to focus a little less on just getting from year to year,” she says. “We need to be looking ahead, being proactive, and trying to predict what we can to ensure a more consistent stream.”

Look for future articles highlighting AIAG Custom Town Hall presentations in upcoming issues of this e-newsletter. For more information on the event and how you can get involved as an attendee, exhibitor, or sponsor, visit www.aiag.org or call AIAG Customer Service at (248) 358-3003.



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