AIIS – CBP Base Metals Center Mid-year Update
The Base Metals Center of Excellence and Expertise (BMC) of U. S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) met by video conference with the AIIS Customs Committee on August 11, 2020, for the annual mid-year update briefing. The BMC was represented by Center Director Africa Bell, Assistant Director Michael Dean, Acting Assistant Directors Michelle English and Tracy Roy, and National Account Manager Earl Terry. CBP was also represented by USMCA Director Tamica Solomon and several members of her staff at HQ in DC. AIIS was represented by close to 20 Customs Committee members, a record for our mid-year briefing.
Director Bell discussed the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the work of the BMC. Although the BMC personnel have, with few exceptions, been working 100% by telework, there has been little disruption as the BMC already functioned as a virtual office with personnel based in 36 ports of entry. CBP will re-examine the telework decision in September to determine if any changes are needed.
Personnel are available for any required in–office or on-site activities, including interactions with port personnel, inspectors, or enforcement officers, although this has been limited. The primary problems have been the lack of special activities such as outreach programs and enforcement conferences. There is also the constant reminder to check office numbers for messages!
USMCA Director Solomon and several of her staff provided an update on USMCA activities with the new Agreement which has been in effect only since July 1. It was noted that there are several areas where the implementing legislation and/or regulations were not fully clear, or in some cases showed procedures that differed from the intent. CBP is working with Congress to correct some of these issues, and providing “relaxed” enforcement until they are resolved. Areas to be aware of include the changed SPI indicator; the lack of any formal origin certificate (there will be a template on the CBP website, but this is for convenience and other formats are acceptable); the new 70% overall “melted and poured” origin requirements for steel used in automobile manufacture (to be certified by the automobile manufacturers); and the updated recordkeeping requirements, still 5 years but can be in any form, including electronic. There are also upcoming changes in preference requirements for certain products in HTS Chapter 73 which have either a two or three year phase in depending on product.
Assistant Director Michael Dean discussed issues on Section 232. He noted that there has been a change in practice on goods covered by Chapter 98, with goods also covered by Section 232 originally being treated under the Chapter 98 rules. Under a mid-April change Chapter 98 and Section 232 duties are calculated independently, resulting in some products receiving beneficial treatment under Chapter 98 but also being subject to Section 232 duties. Goods which retain US origin remain free of Section 232 duties. Documentary support was provided to all AIIS attendees.
Mr. Dean and Assistant Director Roy also reported that claims for multiple product exclusions have resulted in Post Summary Correction (PSC) volume being up about 4000% (although beginning to come down), and Protest volume up about 1200%. This has resulted in delays in processing due to volume. Claims are generally worked in the order received, except for certain very high value claims, and those filed by ISA member/BMC partnership level importers. One tip is to remember that it is allowed to add new information to a Protest at any time before it is processed, but a Protest Amendment will cause the underlying Protest to be closed without action and a new Protest, with a new number and date, initiated. This can cause problems if the 180 day time period after liquidation has passed, so be careful about checking the “Amendment” box when filing. It is also important to watch exclusion effective dates and allowed volumes both when filing initial claims and retroactive ones. It may be necessary to request extensions of liquidation dates and protests while waiting for Commerce Department decisions.
Note that Commodity Team designations will be changing from the current three number format (all BMC teams ending with a “5”) to a three letter format, with all BMC teams starting with an “E.”
Wood Packaging Material (WPM) issues were referenced by both Director Bell and Account Manager Earl Terry. Handling of WPM has now been incorporated as one of the Minimum Security Criteria for CTPAT. Member companies were supposed to have updated their online profiles by the end of June. Enforcement of the new requirements is expected to be done through the validation process. Information on penalties imposed by AQI is kept on a port basis; the BMC is trying to get some national data on this issue and make it available to AIIS.
Assistant Director Michelle English discussed the EAPA AD/CVD evasion claims, noting an increase in cases from FY 2019 (13) to FY 2020, with 20 already to date. 31 cases have been billed a total of $207 million. The final regulations for the program were supposed to be issued this FY, but now have been delayed to, hopefully, before the end of the calendar year. Director Bell noted that if filing an EAPA case, it is important to provide good information so CBP can build a solid case, particularly given the short time frames.
AD Roy discussed how importers can use the BMC for help. The Centers are both industry and account based, with most importers assigned to a particular team. Importers should take advantage of the opportunity to advise the Center regarding issues with exclusions, binding rulings, entry rejects, or other issues which the Center may be able to help resolve, hopefully without having to resort to Form 28s and 29s. If an importer has filed for a prospective binding ruling, but finds it necessary to begin importing before the ruling is issued, let the Center know that a request is in process – this can preclude further requests for information. Also make use of the Center mailboxes to advise the import specialists of issues as they arise.
The BMC remains a valuable resource for AIIS and its members for many aspects of importing. The continued support of BMC personnel is greatly appreciated.
Steven W. Baker
AIIS Customs Committee Chair