U.S. Customs To Pilot Test Blockchain Viability


blockchain

In September 2018, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will start pilot testing the viability of blockchain technology in international trade. One of the first tests will be to see if they can successfully receive Certifications of Origin to identify if a product can qualify for preferential treatment under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

What is Blockchain?

Blockchain allows for digital information to be shared but not copied. It was originally created for financial transactions however, tech communities are starting to get more creative on what it can be used for. This includes smart contracts, transparent voting for elections, file storage, and in the world of trade, supply chain auditing.

Blockchain acts as a large database spread over a network of many, many computers. By not storing the data in any one location decentralizes the data. By decentralizing the data, it makes it difficult for a “hacker” to corrupt, thus making it a safe way for many people to access the data simultaneously.

Another interesting fact about blockchain is it can be setup to share with the entire public, or only shared with a few selected individuals. This allows for it to be used on massive scales, such as an election, or small scales, such as a one-on-one contract between you and a supplier.

History is another important factor. Blockchain has the ability to collect and maintain all transactions and previous data. In the trade industry this could be vital since records are required to be kept by Customs for multiple years in case of an audit. With a clear history that is accessible at any time, it can make it easier on Customs and the individual or business being audited.

What is Your Commodities Origin?

The goal is to certify the backstories of commodities are genuine. Is your sweater really made in Canada? Is every part from your laptop obtained or produced entirely in Canada, the U.S. or Mexico? Probably not, however with the assistance of blockchain technology and supply chain auditing, the answer could be quick and easy for CBP to discover.

Why This Potentially Helps U.S. Customs?

The reason CBP is excited for the viability of blockchain technology is because it can permanently verify transaction records in a fast and secure way. Being able to work fast and safe is any businesses dream, and CBP wants to start testing the technology in the early stages to make sure they are ready to handle the demand for blockchain technology once more companies adopt the relatively new idea.

How Supply Chain Auditing Can Help You?

It is easy to drown in the science behind blockchain technology, but what matters most to you is blockchain can allow you to do business easier and safer than before. The introduction of Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) has eliminated the need for faxing, mailing or hand delivering paper documents. By having a safe way to transport the same “paper documents” digitally in only a way where you, the sender, and CBP, the receiver, can access it, than business will become better for you.

If You Need An Expert

With pilot testing to begin in September it will be interesting to see what the findings are from CBP. This might be the first step U.S. Customs takes to adopting blockchain technology and electronic supply chain auditing. For the latest in trade news and expert advice feel free to contact an experienced trade advisor to help you navigate the world of trade.

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7 Reasons to Invest in Customs Compliance


PCB helpWith today’s fast paced business climate time is limited and precious. There is always a long list of tasks to accomplish so why would you take valuable time out of your busy schedule to attend an educational course?

Like any good business person worth his or her salt, let’s examine the Return on Investment (ROI). Obviously the course topic has to have some relevance to your business. Here are some questions a potential attendee may ponder on as they contemplate the decision to attend or not:

  • Is there a way my company can save money?
  • Will it improve a process?
  • Will it provide potential insight to solve a problem?
  • Will it provide valuable knowledge to move a project along?
  • Is the topic one that cannot easily be ignored? (e.g. compliance issues)

What is Customs Compliance?

Customs compliance refers to importers and exporters meeting all of the requirements governing the movement of their commercial goods across the border. To be trade compliant is to ensure that the tariff classification, origin and valuation of goods are all accurately declared in accordance with legislative requirements and that the appropriate duties and taxes are paid. There is a clear obligation under the Customs Act to provide true, accurate and complete trade information including a proper description of the goods, as well as correcting erroneous information regardless of dutiable status. Furthermore, an essential part of customs compliance is to ensure that all import requirements are met such as having the appropriate import permit. Failure to meet all import requirements violates the control measures that are in place to protect the economy, the environment and the health of citizens.

 

The Importance of Customs Compliance:

In recent years, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have shifted much of their emphasis from import inspections to post-audit verifications. The responsibilities put upon Importers of Record (IOR) have steadily increased as all members of the supply chain endure higher scrutiny from customs officials. Now more than ever it is imperative that the IOR maintain a high level of sophistication, demonstrate due diligence, ensure they understand their responsibilities, implement internal sets of controls and procedures for best practices as well as understand the consequences of non-compliance.

International trade no longer stands on the sidelines of corporate awareness. It is being transformed from an operational function into an evolving eco-system that helps mitigate organizational risks and strategically drives value. In order to do business efficiently, smart businesses need to strike a balance between ensuring timely movement of cross-border goods and complying with complex regulatory systems designed to ensure safe, verifiable cross-border transactions. Effective global customs planning can help improve a company’s bottom line.

 

Benefits of Attending a Customs Compliance Course:

1. Gain Insight on Key Trade Topics

A well designed course will help you gain a better understanding of key trade topics, teach you how to manage customs compliance and utilize free trade agreements to your benefit. The substantial knowledge you receive will aid in completing accurate documentation, understanding logistics and getting a feel for how transactions move through the regulatory process.

2. Stay Current on Customs Regulations

In our industry, where we deal with customs and other government agencies, regulations are ever-changing. A customs compliance course can be a convenient way for trade professionals to stay ahead of new regulations with international trade.

3. Avoid Possible Penalties and Risks By Being Informed

Customs agencies and other government departments emphasize the importance of compliance. This is monitored through increased enforcement and could result in monetary penalties to the importer. One of the most important reasons to attend a course is the knowledge and guidance you will receive from the presenters with regards to the steps your organization will need to take to become more compliant with government agencies.

4. Cost-effective Training and Knowledge Refreshment Tool for Logistics Professionals

Courses make for excellent training for someone in a new role, a new employee, or training for yourself. Quite often we have repeat attendees who regularly register on an annual or bi-annual basis. Part of our education program (PCB Learning Center) covers general overviews of importing or exporting, but we also offer training on specific subjects (e.g. North American Free Trade Agreement, H.S. Tariff Classification, Customs Valuation, etc.), thus providing an excellent opportunity for companies to utilize them as a cost-effective training tool.

5. Access to Customs Compliance Experts

A well designed course should include adequate time for audience participation or a valid opportunity at the conclusion to get answers to your questions. A live seminar gives you the chance to personally speak to the presenter(s) or other subject matter experts. We all agree that sometimes the best experiences occur when there are excellent inquiries that promote further ideas and discussion, particularly when you thought you were the only one with that challenge.

6. Reasonable Time Commitment

The ability to obtain some specific knowledge in a short period of time is an added benefit. Night school courses are requisite for more in-depth subject learning but often you need something that is less intensive but still provides substantial knowledge.  Half or full-day seminars or on-demand videos are an excellent way to get a quick update.

7. Networking – Make Valuable Professional Connections

A live course allows you to network and learn alongside other like-minded professionals, coming away with increased knowledge and understanding. Perhaps you will encounter a person who had a similar business problem to yours, or people who can share their own experience on a certain issue and provide you with valuable insight.

Here is a quote from an attendee at one of our recent Customs Compliance Seminars  “… it’s always interesting to have an informal conversation with compliance people from other industries,” which brings up another great point – where else would you have a chance to rub shoulders with people of similar business interests?

Hopefully this has inspired you to take the next step in your customs compliance education. Check out our PCB Learning Center to find a perfect resource today!

We hope you’ll join us and encourage you to share this with colleagues and business partners who might find it useful.

Do you have questions about PCB Learning Center’s education program? Leave us a comment in the section below!

 
 

FDA Food Facility Registration Renewal Opens October 1st 2018


 

About the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) program:

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) improves the registration process by ensuring, among other things, that the FDA has accurate contact information for each facility. The new registration form also includes new categories of foods. These new categories will help FDA rapidly communicate with the right facilities in the event of an emergency.

Food producers and manufacturers have long been required to register with the Food and Drug Administration. Facilities can register online, via mail or fax. If your company is not domestic (not located within the U.S.) you will be required to assign a U.S. agent in your registration. See below for more information on assigning a U.S. agent.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued further information and guidance regarding registration requirements for domestic and foreign manufacturers, processors, packers or holders of food for human or animal consumption based on changes made by the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act).

Biennial registration renewal for food facilities begins at 12:01 AM on October 1, 2018. The updated food facility registration system is accepting food facility registration renewals.

Who must register?

Under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FMSA), all domestic and foreign facilities that manufacture, pack or store food, food ingredients, pet foods or dietary supplements are required to renew their registration with the FDA before the end of 2018 and to re-register every two years thereafter. This represents a change from the previous registration requirement for food facilities. The re-registration form contains new food categories, and requires more detailed and updated contact information.

How to re-register a domestic company?

To submit a registration renewal to FDA, a food facility is required to submit required registration information to FDA, including the additional registration information.

If you are affected by the new regulations, you may re-register your food facility online.

How to re-register if not a domestic company?

Pacific Customs Brokers offers the following services:

  • Act as your U.S. Agent
  • Assist with FSMA re-registration
  • Answer your queries regarding FDA requirements

Contact Pacific Customs Brokers for assistance with food facility registrations or the FSMA. To stay current on this topic, you may also want to subscribe to Pacific Customs Brokers trade updates.

Do you have questions on the FDA food facility re-registration? Share them in our comments section below or email Ask Your Broker today.

 
 

How To Kick Trade Anxiety Out of Your Business In 4 Steps


Trade

Watching the news these days really takes the gusto out of trade plans. Compared to previous years, trade nowadays seems far more risky. Each day we field calls from worried importers…

“Will there be surtax applied on my goods in the future?”

“Will NAFTA dissolve?”

“I signed a year long commitment to purchase goods that now carry an unreasonable amount of duty. What can I do?”

 

Whether you are currently importing or looking to expand into an international market, you may share these queries. And although there are many questions left to be answered at this time, it does not mean you cannot take action to alleviate some of the uncertainty and accompanying anxiety.

So here are our top 4 tips on how to curb your trade anxiety and forge forward with your trade plans.

Step 1: Arm Yourself With Trade Knowledge

Perhaps step away from the news feed and do some research on what can and cannot happen. Can NAFTA be dissolved overnight? Nope. Is there an existing bilateral trade agreement between Canada and the U.S.? There sure is. However, it is out of date and will take some work to make it current. Can you claim back surtax paid if it is significantly harming your business? Possibly. There are certain criteria to meet, but it is an option. The point here is that you need to understand what options you have, how quickly you need to move and how your company will be impacted if and when the trade winds change. In times of uncertainty, get as certain as you can.

You can seek this council from International Trade Lawyers, who are perfect for large companies or Trade Advisors for small to medium sized businesses. Both will gain an understanding of your questions and lay out the options you have currently as well as bring any potential issues to your attention. Together you can create an action plan for some of the expected outcomes.

Step 2: Research Financing and Other Trade Support Opportunities

There are many opportunities for financial assistance that go unutilized. There are entire government entities that have a sole purpose of facilitating trade by offering support. Here in Canada importers can work with EDC, or Economic Development Canada, who provide risk insurance, financing and working capital assistance to companies wanting to expand internationally.

Recently, the Government of Canada announced a Surtax Remittance process where those companies negatively affected by the imposed surtaxes that came into effect on July 1st, 2018 can apply for a refund. For more information to determine if your company is eligible read our blog Are You Eligible To Request Remission Of Canada’s New U.S. Surtaxes?

The Canadian Trade Commissioner Service is available to all Canadian companies looking to expand into new markets. They will team you up with your own Trade Commissioner who specializes in your industry. This partner will help you map out an export plan and connect you with their extensive list of network contacts across the globe.

Step 3: Spread Your Goods Thin

The advice we give out the most these days is diversify, diversify, diversify. Although it is not the goal, some companies may find themselves in a situation when one of their clients can make or break them financially. This is a dangerous situation to be in, especially if your client is from another country and you are acting as the non-resident importer in order to deliver your goods to their door.

So our advice is to begin seeking additional markets in which to sell your goods. Regardless of the current trade landscape, diversification can create sales stability. However, like all business ventures, it is not without its share of risk. Utilizing organizations such as EDC and the Trade Commissioners Services can help you in this area.

On the flip side, if you find yourself purchasing your goods from one international supplier, now is the time to look for alternatives. If you are locked into a purchasing agreement, speak to your supplier and determine if your long standing relationship can relieve some of the financial impact you may be experiencing from unexpected and increased duty.

Working with a Freight Manager and Trade Advisor can help you source from Countries that may offer preferential duty treatments or have a current Free Trade Agreement in place. A Freight Manager can help you determine the shipping costs from this new location. From there you can calculate your anticipated landed costs from these new locations and compare it to your current costs.

Step 4: Do It Now

Let’s say you are walking down a forest trail when a bear steps on to your path. Hopefully your instinct is to freeze and back away slowly as the experts advise. Reacting to threats in trade should not have the same approach. Do not freeze and back away. Do not even pause to ‘see what plays out’. Act NOW. Buy, sell, trade your heart out because few duties are retroactive (typically only found in antidumping and countervailing cases where companies were found to have been undercutting the domestic market), and they can not tax what is already in the country. So, do not wait, act now.

If you are new to importing internationally, know that the setup process typically only takes a couple of days provided the paperwork is filled out correctly and completely. Working with a Customs Brokers allows for swift business registration and import bond implementation.

Do you have unanswered questions regarding your trade future? Leave us a comment below and one of our experienced Trade Advisors will reach out to you.

Lisa Stevenson

 

 

 

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Offshoring In The Canadian Customs Brokerage Industry


Offshoring

A very interesting blog post caught our eye by our industry neighbor, Cole International. They wrote about the hot topic of Canadian Customs Brokers offshoring their entries in Is Your Canadian Customs Broker Offshoring?

In support of this question, we wanted to add to this discussion.

First off, it is true.

Your Canadian Customs Broker may be offshoring your entry release requests. It is important you are notified if your customs entries are being outsourced. This blog details why offshoring your Customs entries is important to you and how outsourcing your Customs entries can affect your relationship with Customs moving forward.

Why Are Canadian Customs Brokers Offshoring Your Entries?

Two reasons.

  1. To cut costs.
  2. Because they can.

 

Unlike in the U.S., where confidentiality and record keeping rules prohibit customs business from being conducted outside of the U.S., in Canada, there are no such rules at this time. U.S. Customs work must be completed and filed in the U.S. by a licensed Customs Broker.  In Canada, a Customs Broker can contract out this work, entry work that is being completed on behalf of their clients, to another business. Neither Canada Border Services Agency or the Canadian Government have addressed this.

Some businesses in the Customs Brokerage industry have adopted a strategy of cutting their costs by using less experienced outsourced labor to handle vital client Customs data entry. Cost-cutting measures are common practice for any business, but cost cutting the quality of Customs entries has a drastic effect on clients compliance with Customs agencies. The costs of not being compliant with Customs can hurt business where it hurts the most, their wallets, or at an extreme, losing the privilege of conducting cross-border trade.

There is a catch. Customs Brokers who are willingly adopting this strategy are not at any actual risk because, importing risk falls on the importer, not the Customs Broker or their contractor. If a Customs Broker submits a declaration to Customs on your behalf incorrectly, Customs penalizes you, the Importer of Record, and NOT the Broker. Yes, it is true that you could then turn around and try to pass that monetary penalty on to your Broker that made the error, but you might not win that case.

Errors in understanding increase each time a new party is used to relay instructions. If you do not have a close relationship with the broker clearing your entries, your risk increases. Just like the telephone game, the more people your instructions pass through, the more diluted and incorrect the final message is.

The relationship you have with your Customs Broker needs to be founded on a clear understanding of your supply chain, importing needs and any specifics that require the broker to take extra care and attention when submitting your declarations to Customs. It requires close communication and access to those that do this sensitive work for you. That is why it is important for importers to choose their broker wisely; fully knowing the weight of the decision the broker makes for you falls squarely on your shoulders.


Looking for a Customs Broker to clear entries on your behalf? Check out 10 Questions to Ask When Selecting a Customs Broker.


Is Offshoring an Issue?

Offshoring is not an issue provided the staff members who are completing the entry work on your behalf know your company’s importing practices intimately, hold industry certifications assuring training in Canadian import regulations, and have a stakeholder relationship with YOU and not just the Customs Broker which pays them.

Here is an example of how these three fundamental aspects of your relationship with your Customs Broker play into the declarations they make for you.

Say you import prefabricated buildings. Your Customs Broker knows this and notices that the more recent entry release request they received from you was for 10 boxes of bolts from a new vendor. Upon review, the paperwork is perfect; all components necessary for declaration are present. However, a shipment made up of only bolts is out of the ordinary.

A Broker who is not familiar with your trade practices would process the perfect paperwork as is.

A Broker who is familiar with your practice would call you to find out a little more about the shipment.

During the conversation you inform your Broker the 10 boxes are a part of a prefabricated home and the vendor was just unfamiliar with the paperwork process. The entry should clear as a prime ETA and not as a singular shipment.

If this was not caught, extra duty and tax would have been paid unnecessarily. It took a Broker familiar with your work, access to speak to you the about anomaly, and the training in Canadian entry types to avoid overpayment.

In this example the person clearing the entry on your behalf has a duty to you directly, to get it right, and not a third party.

If your Customs Broker is using a third party for the data entry portion of the entry, they likely also have an account manager in place to review that third parties work. However, like most review roles, the account managers attention is spread across multiple accounts and hundreds of entries each day. Therefore, they likely prioritize shipment review based on complaint and error, if and when it is brought to their attention. The quantity of output should never outweigh the quality of input. Your best chance of an excellent compliance rating with Customs is supported by a Customs Broker who prioritizes quality by hiring experienced Brokers and fostering continuous improvement through education.

Some may look at this as an issue of keeping Canadian jobs in Canada or from the opposing view that to offshore is an opportunity to provide better rates to clients while providing an opportunity for jobs in other Countries. Or perhaps offshoring allows small brokers the ability to handle your business when it grows past their capacity to process your requests. However, looking at it solely from the perspective of compliance and client service may help you determine if it is the best option for you.

According to the Office of the Auditor General of Canada’s Report, in 2014-2015 Canada Border Services Agency lost $42 million or more in revenue due to misclassification of goods by importers. As a result, the Auditor General recommends “The Canada Border Services Agency review its penalties in order to better protect import revenues and ensure compliance with trade programs.” CBSA agreed with this recommendations and we expect significant increases to monetary penalties for non-compliance.

What Can Importers Do To Ensure All Levels of Client Service and Compliance Are To Their Satisfaction?

Can you reach the person that holds your documentation in their hands 24/7 and get the answers you need? Do they understand your business and why the entry needs to be cleared in a specific way? If your entries are being offshored, it is recommended you take extra care in your own internal practices to make sure you have shown reasonable care with Customs. If you can demonstrate to Customs that you are showing reasonable care of your entry process than you will have a better opportunity to stay compliant with Customs.

Although to date compliance has seemed like a secondary worry for many importers, stricter penalties are more likely than ever with the influx in tariff increases and surtaxes applied at the border.

As a business who conducts trade across the border, eventually, Customs will put the microscope on you. The question you have to ask yourself is, ‘Am I confident in the work being completed for me by my Customs Broker’? If your answer is yes, happy trading. But if your answer is no, find a Customs Broker who you can trust.


Love your Customs Broker? Tell us why in the comment section below.


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