U.S. Customs withdraws pre-notification proposal

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Feb. 13, 2003) — The U.S. Customs Service has taken off the table a “strawman” proposal to restructure the cargo release process for commercial imports into the United States.

The proposal, floated in January and roundly criticized by the trade and transportation communities, would have required motor carriers to submit cargo data to U.S. Customs four hours before a truck is loaded in Canada for shipment to the U.S., and 24 hours prior to loading a truck in the U.S. destined for Canada.

Such a requirement would devastate just-in-time shipments across the border, critics argued.

Customs is now in the process of drafting a new proposal which will be based on recommendations provided by the Advisory Committee on Commercial Operations and its sub-groups, including a truck sub-group, said Ron Lennox, vice-president of regulatory affairs for the Canadian Trucking Alliance.

“What you have now at least is a process that will allow the trade community to provide direction on how Customs implements the Trade Act provisions on pre-notification,” he said. “Bear in mind, they are putting in place a statute they’ve been handed by Congress. It’s not like they have the option to say, ‘We don’t like this, we don’t think its going to work.’ They must do something.”

Lennox said the goal is to draft a proposal on pre-clearance notification that is not onerous yet would still meet the requirements of Congress. U.S. Customs is accepting recommendations until mid-March. It has been given a mandate by Congress to implement a final rule by October.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Food & Drug Adminstration is going forward with a proposal on electronic pre-notification of food shipments. The agency would require importers to provide pre-notification via the Internet by noon of the day prior to import, including at least the name of the carrier. The proposed rule would take effect Dec. 12, 2003.

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