US Customs and Border Protection will open enrollment to exporters for the first time next week.
On May 17, exporters will be eligible to participate in the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism program (C-TPAT). Exporters that enroll in C-TPAT will be able to avail themselves of the trade facilitation benefits previously offered only to importers under the program. The effort is seen as boosting the Obama administration's National Export Initiative to facilitate export cargo shipments.
C-TPAT is a voluntary supply chain security program administered by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) that was developed to improve the security of private companies' supply chains with respect to terrorism. The program was launched in November 2001, but initially limited enrollment exclusively to importers. C-TPAT requires participating companies to document and validate their supply chain security procedures according to C-TPAT guidelines. In addition, CBP requires that C-TPAT-participating companies develop an internal validation process to ensure that security measures are in place and documented in their Supply Chain Annual Security Profile and in any supplemental information provided to CBP. As a part of the C-TPAT process, CBP’s C-TPAT Supply Chain Security Specialists (SCSS) and a C-TPAT participant will jointly validate a company’s supply chain security procedures.
Companies interested in participating in the C-TPAT exporter program must meet the program’s definition of an “exporter” (a person or company that, as the principal party in interest in the export transaction, has the power and responsibility to determine and control the sending of items out of the United States) and meet the following eligibility requirements:
According to CBP, the benefits of being C-TPAT certified include the following:
Some of the benefits that companies with secure international supply chains also experience beyond those offered by C-TPAT are improved product safety, inventory management, supply chain visibility, and higher customer satisfaction.
Although the benefits of becoming C-TPAT certified are undeniable, it is important to note that there is no legislation or regulation that governs the program. This means that CBP can choose to modify the program at will, as it has already done in the past. These modifications have consequently increased the requirements imposed on program participants.
Exporters considering whether to become C-TPAT certified should understand the costs involved in participating in the program and weigh such costs against the benefits. It is an individual decision that must be made on the unique facts and circumstances of each company’s profile.
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Margaret M. Gatti