If you are importing a large volume of products from abroad and are not aware of the C-TPAT program administered by Customs and Border Protection (CBP), then you may want to consider the benefits of the program. C-TPAT is short for the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism, and participants in the program are six times less likely to undergo a security related cargo examination. Additionally, C-TPAT participants are four times less likely to be subject to a trade related examination than non-C-TPAT members. These significantly fewer cargo examinations help save importers time and money. (more…)

The Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) certification program is a voluntary government program through which importers and exporters can agree to implement and maintain a set of predetermined supply chain security measures and submit to government site visits in exchange for benefits such as expedited review of shipment documentation at the border. The program is designed to streamline import/export procedures, increase shipment security, and save the C-TPAT partner company time and money. Nearly a year ago, U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) expanded the previously importers-only C-TPAT to include exporters, releasing a fact sheet outlining eligibility requirements and the  benefits available to participants that I discussed in this September 2014 post.  Then in May 2015, CBP deployed “Phase II of Portal 2.0” – an update to the C-TPAT web portal that includes the addition of the exporter application to the site, effectively implementing the September 2014 policy change. (more…)

In a June 12 post, we told you about U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) plan to expand the previously importers only Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) certification program to include exporters. As you may recall, C-TPAT certified importers have been enjoying a “lower level of scrutiny” when it comes to reviews of their documentation at the border in addition to other advantages. After a summer spent ironing out the details CBP has released a set of exporter eligibility requirements and is now accepting exporter applications. CBP has released a Fact Sheet for C-TPAT Export Entity hopefuls that can be found here.

It’s important to note that companies involved in international trade are increasing requiring all their foreign partners to satisfy similarly strict security and export compliance standards in order to avoid getting embroiled in trouble with their respective governments or suffering a public relations backlash (think Wal-Mart in Bangladesh or Apple in China). In light of this clear trend, the C-TPAT exporter program offers the opportunity to partner with CBP to get a leg up in ensuring your overall corporate compliance program is up to par and gain some additional benefits in the process, including:

  1. Increased facilitation of exports from foreign partners located in countries that have established Mutual Recognition Arrangements with the United States
  2. The ability to market the fact that C-TPAT certified cargo is secure
  3. Prioritized processing examinations over non-C-TPAT parties, reduced rates and times
  4. Increased coordination with C-TPAT partners during shipping disruptions
  5. Individually-assigned C-TPAT Supply Chain Security Specialist (SCSS) available to assist with supply chain security inquiries
  6. Access to C-TPAT trainings and seminar and various multi-media supply chain materials
  7. Use of C-TPAT common standards and security requirements that facilitate international trade by reducing the duplication of procedures

To be eligible, a company must:

  1. Be an active U.S. exporter (exporting out of the U.S.)
  2. Have a business office staffed in the U.S.
  3. Have an Employer Identification Number or Dun & Bradstreet number
  4. Have a documented export security program and designate an officer or manager as the C-TPAT point of contact and one as an alternate
  5. Commit to maintaining the C-TPAT supply chain security criteria
  6. Create/provide security profile to CBP outlining how applicant will enhance internal policies to satisfy C-TPAT security criteria
  7. Have an acceptable level of compliance for export reporting for the last twelve months and be in good standing with U.S. Federal Government departments

This could be a powerful tool in your efforts to streamline your company’s international transactions and increase profits, not to mention the fact that C-TPAT offers eligible exporters the opportunity to better protect themselves against inadvertent yet costly violations and participate in the greater effort to strengthen global supply chain security by allying themselves with CBP and working with it to strengthen their compliance procedures.


Until now, eligibility for a Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) certification has been an importers only program. Now a plan is in the works to expand the program to exporters. One proposed benefit would be for export agencies to apply a “lower level of scrutiny” to the export documentation of participants whose goods are destined for a country that has signed a Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) with the US. C-TPAT certification could also reduce the number of export exams that US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) conducts on a participating exporter and provide it with priority processing when an export exam is initiated. There is yet no timetable for the exporter pilot program. However, the certification requirements could be released by CBP by the end of the summer.

C-TPAT is currently a voluntary program offered to importers by CBP that is geared towards improving US border security and facilitating the fluidity of international supply chains. CBP works with each participant to verify that it has a documented process in place to identify and properly mitigate the risks associated with each step of its international supply chains before it is granted C-TPAT certification. Once certified, participants undergo fewer CBP inspections at the border and receive priority processing if and when a CBP inspection is initiated.

U.S. importers that are members of the Customs-Trade Partnership against Terrorism (C-TPAT), when serving as U.S. exporters of goods to the European Union (EU), will receive expedited Custom clearance, decreased inspection frequency, and other benefits when they export to European ports.  Similarly, companies that have Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) status in the EU will be treated like C-TPAT members when they import into the United States.  This represents full implementation of the May 2012 mutual recognition agreement between Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the EU Taxation and Customs Union Directorate.

In order to take advantage of the benefits of mutual recognition, U.S. importers must be Tier 1 or Tier 2 C-TPAT members, meaning that the adequacy of their security measures and their requirements for business partners must have been “validated” following inspection by CBP.  Similarly, EU AEOs must be AEOSs or AEOFs, meaning that they have been validated following examination and inspection by the national authorities of an EU member state as compliant with the safety and security component (as opposed to just the Customs simplifications component) of the AEO program.

The primary benefits available to importers will be lower automated risk assessment scores given reciprocally to members of C-TPAT and EU AEOs.  This has the very real advantage of dramatically decreasing inspection frequency for member company’s shipments on both sides of the Atlantic, and member companies’ shipments that are selected for inspection are given priority over nonmembers’ shipments.  For those companies that would have become C-TPAT members and EU AEOs absent mutual recognition, the primary benefit is the elimination of the requirement of repeat examinations/audits by both U.S. and EU member state officials of the same aspects of their operations before the companies can benefit from trusted treatment by U.S. and European authorities.  The U.S. and the EU have similar mutual recognition agreements with other countries and are in the process of negotiating new ones.  This significantly increases the incentive to make the initial investment of time and money and get certified and validated under C-TPAT and/or another jurisdiction’s similar program.

We have covered the Customs-Trade Partnership against Terrorism (“C-TPAT”), a U.S. Customs and Border Protection program that entitles importers who have proven their compliance with its requirements to less frequent security inspections of their goods, before on this blog.