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Trade Policy and Twitter: Auto Companies Face Unprecedented Uncertainty in Fast-Changing Global Arena

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In an era marked by uncertainty and rapid trade policy changes, there is an opportunity for companies to position themselves for long-term viability and success.

“We are in uncharted territory,” said Edward Dougherty, global GTM senior risk and compliance manager, for Livingston International Inc. “For those of us with grey in our hair, this is the most uncertain and fastest-changing period we’ve ever seen. Gone are the days when we had time to digest the Federal Register and figure out how to proceed, because your CFO has seen the President’s tweets and wants to know how you’re going to fix things right now.”

“Our company had two meetings and was on verge of changing our entire IT infrastructure because of a tweet. I never thought I’d say that,” Dougherty said.

During their session at AIAG's Customs Town Hall, Dougherty and Stacy Diève, strategic trade manager for Cisco Systems, discussed rapid changes amid the continually escalating tensions between the United States and its key trading partners. Their breakdown included tariff actions such as 301, 232, GSP, and the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill.

Diève said that while the Administration’s lightning-fast policy changes have been a nightmare logistically, there is a silver lining.

“Trade war and policy changes via Twitter have made constant contact between C-suite and trade and customs departments vital in a way it hasn’t been before,” Diève said. “When that tweet comes at 5:30 pm on a Friday — and upends U.S. trade policy — you need to know your go-to data and go-to person to make sense of it. Now that we have the ear of the C-suite, we can talk to them about other global changes.”

AIAG's Customs Town Hall, an annual gathering of importers, exporters, and associated service providers, is held to discuss new and ongoing programs that impact customs clearance, compliance programs, and cost. The 2019 program — held Nov. 7, at The Mint, 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 to maintain effective relationships.

“This unprecedented uncertainty in international trade is a major wake-up call,” Dougherty said. “We have to be adaptable, nimble, and relevant to survive.”

Diève said policy-by-tweet is just an extreme example of how things have changed. While many hope this particular era will be short lived, the industry can’t deny that the game has changed.

“Duty Drawback: Two words we’ve never said in tech,” Diève said. “Our products have always been duty-free. Now we have to explain to the board, ‘You won’t get your money next week. It’s going to take more time now.’ Moments like these are when companies sink or swim.”

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.

SAVE THE DATE! 2020 Customs Town Hall is Wednesday, November 4th.

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Stacy Diève, strategic trade manager for Cisco Systems

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Edward Dougherty, global GTM senior risk and compliance manager for Livingston International Inc.