Business owners and others with an interest in customs compliance had an opportunity in Buffalo Wednesday to learn the latest information about how imports and exports are reported and monitored. Changes are coming, including one system scheduled to take effect at the beginning of 2017.
Federal officials hosted a series of workshops inside the Marriott Hotel at HarborCenter in downtown Buffalo to share information with those having an interest in cross-border commerce. The opening event was an explanation of the Centers for Excellence and Expertise, a concept introduced in 2011 by Customs and Border Protection. The Centers are hubs that manage import and export reports and review information to determine whether the goods may cross.
Each Center specializes in a specific kind of product. The program began in 2011 with only two Centers but has since expanded to 10, including a Center in Buffalo. The local Center specializes in industrial and manufacturing materials.
"It's one-stop shopping for getting information about how to import their products," said Ann Marie Paul, Director of the Industrial and Manufacturing Materials Center of Excellence for Customs and Border Protection. "We have a lot of partnerships and we're working with industries as a whole, so the more we know about an industry, the less we have to look at cargo crossing the border."
Streamlining customs processing is also going paperless. At the end of 2016, Customs and Border Protection and its partnering government and trade agencies will complete a transition into a "single window" system utilizing the Automated Commercial Environment for import/export reporting and information.
Other workshops hosted in Buffalo Wednesday provided information about Food and Drug Administration issues in relation to imports and exports, as well as immigration-related concerns.
The Centers, guests were told, are here to stay.
"As trade and industry became global, we kind of stayed in our own little niches, areas regionally," said Bob Bekalarski, Assistant Director at the local Center. "In order for us to be more successful, we realized we had to expand our own effort to match what was going on globally, have a business model that was in sync with the rest of the business world , to come into the 21st Century."