BARRIERS TO US EXPORTS: ARE THEY NEGOTIABLE?
December 10, 2013
By Sherwin Pomerantz
A recent survey by the Advisory Committee on Commercial Operations of the US Customs & Border Protection (COAC) Department indicates that a significant percentage of those who responded said they lost business as a result of US export requirements.
45% of those who responded said that they often experience export delays because of paperwork requirements, transportation availability and government review. Delays seem to be most frequent with respect to air shipments, followed by couriers, ocean freight, truck and then rail.
Nearly 20% of the respondents said that they had experienced lost sales due to US Export requirements.
According to the survey, the top export-related trouble spots identified by exporters include US government inefficiency in processing, a lack of post-departure filing authorization, no trusted trader program, paper bills of lading, variation in Customs & Border Protection port processes and other government agency guidance to ports, increasing regulatory compliance costs, duty drawback complexity, lengthy foreign-trade zone entry processing times, variations in the definition of “US Person,” damage/theft caused by inspections of sensitive shipments, split shipment handling and screening
The list of barriers is formidable and the problems will not be eliminated overnight. However, in light of President Obama’s desire to double US exports by 2015, it would seem incumbent upon government agencies to do what they can to eliminate those obstacles that delay shipments and, in many cases, cause business to be lost altogether.
The solution might very well be for the US government to engage with people who have extended experience dealing with these obstacles (i.e. the business leaders themselves) rather than try to tackle the problem through the federal bureaucracy. But even that will be a challenge.
Unfortunately, the rigidness of the US export regime reflects a wider trend affecting many federal government agencies and protocols that are stuck “behind the times.”
For example, a recent article in the New York Times pointed out that the Office of the Federal Register, which serves as the daily journal of the US government, is still using the long-obsolete 3.5 inch floppy disks and CD-ROMs to receive files from other government agencies. As existing laws and security requirements governing the office’s procedures have not been updated regarding technology changes, the office continues to work like it is 1999.
Davita Vance-Cooks, the head of the Government Printing Office, which oversees The Federal Register, spoke at a congressional hearing last week about her department’s attempts to make its work remain relevant in a post-print world. Despite creating mobile apps, The Federal Register still requires agencies to submit information on paper, with original signatures, though they can create a digital signature via a secured email system.
Agencies are limited to submission of documents on CD-ROMs and floppy disks, as opposed to the more recent, now mainstream flash drives or SD cards. “The Federal Register Act says that an agency has to submit the original and two duplicate originals or two certified copies,” said Amy P. Bunk, The Federal Register’s director of legal affairs and policy. As long as an agency does that through one of the approved methods of transmission, she said, “They’ve met the statutory requirement.”
Mind boggling as that may seem, it does tell us something about how the federal government in the US operates and why it may be unable, on its own, to address the issue of barriers to export – a critical need that, left as is, makes it nigh unto impossible for the US to achieve its export growth goals.
Let’s hope that US policy makers can the take the necessary, bold steps to modernize and simplify its procedures and protocols so as to generate positive results for all.