Global supply chain security has been a hot topic for years. Containerized shipping has been identified as one of the weak points in border security. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the U.S. government instituted a number of new border and supply chain security measures. To ease the burden on industry, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) created the Customs-Trade Partnership against Terrorism (“C-TPAT”). The C-TPAT program allows importers to prove and certify to CBP that they have adequate internal controls, training, and other security measures in place to ensure that their incoming cargo is secure and properly identified. More than 10,000 U.S. importers now use C-TPAT because membership in the program greatly reduces the frequency of Customs inspections of their incoming goods, making the goods available in the U.S. sooner and decreasing costs in transit.
How do you become a C-TPAT partner? While the exact requirements vary by industry, at minimum, you must:
- Show how you have addressed past violations.
- Explain your import compliance procedures to CBP in detail. If you don’t present a strong initial application and you are denied, you have to wait 5 years to reapply.
- Develop a security profile to show CBP all of your security procedures, focusing on the “nodes” that CBP thinks are most important.
What are some benefits of joining C-TPAT?
- Reciprocity in other countries. For starters, as of this year, you get beneficial import procedures in the EU. And, the U.S. also has mutual recognition agreements with New Zealand, Canada, Jordan, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan.
- More and more businesses are demanding that their business partners become C-TPAT compliant.
- Access to Free and Secure Trade (“Fast”) lanes at the Mexican and Canadian borders.
- Priority processing of shipments that are subject to inspection.
- C-TPAT is a prerequisite for the Importer Self-Assessment program, discussed here, which decreases the frequency of an importer’s Customs audits.
C-TPAT and reciprocal treatment can give your business an edge. The certification process is tedious and does require a robust trade compliance program. Don’t do it alone though. You must “dot your I’s and cross your T’s.”