2012 Policy Overview
BTA 2012 Overview (link to pdf)
The Border Trade Alliance in 2012 celebrates its 26th anniversary. What began in 1986 as a loosely assembled group of stakeholders along the U.S.-Mexico border, is now North America’s premier authority on issues affecting the U.S. northern and southern borders, representing a large grassroots network of over 2 million public and private sector representatives, including business leaders, chambers of commerce and industry, academic institutions, economic development corporations, industrial parks, transport companies, customs brokers, defense companies, manufacturers and state and local government agencies.
When we launched 26 years ago, we couldn’t have imagined the growth in cross-border trade we would experience under the North American Free Trade Agreement, a free trade area linking 444 million people producing $17 trillion worth of goods. Since its inception, trade between the NAFTA countries has more than tripled from $297 billion to $930 billion.
Despite our current economic environment, the potential is there for even more growth. We support the president’s call for a doubling of exports over the next five years, but to get there we’ll need to strengthen our trade ties with neighbors Canada and Mexico. That means making our ports of entry more efficient; modernizing our infrastructure; ensuring our border agencies have the staff necessary to meet their interdiction and facilitation missions; living up to the letter and spirit of our trade agreements; and working with Canada and Mexico to cooperatively confront the security challenges we face on our shared borders.
We are proud to present this 2012 BTA Policy Overview as we celebrate 26 years of advocacy on behalf the North American cross-border trade community. We look forward to working with you to achieve the goals outlined in this document as we strive to make trade more secure and more efficient.
Sam F. Vale Nelson Balido
Public Policy Committee
Sam Vale, Rio Grande City, Texas
The Public Policy Committee serves as the main advocacy arm of the Border Trade Alliance, representing the organization’s issues committees’ positions before lawmakers and agencies, as well as also coordinating those issues that don’t fit neatly into only one particular committee’s portfolio.
A Call to Action: Saving U.S.-Mexico Trade
The BTA under the auspices of the Public Policy Committee is working to implement the goals outlined in the fall 2010 position paper, A Call to Action: Saving U.S.-Mexico Trade. The BTA seeks to leverage the opportunity of the Mérida Initiative to:
· Empower law enforcement in Mexico;
· Improve border management; and
· Strengthen the legal framework within Mexico.
The current environment of lawlessness in Mexico seriously jeopardizes cross-border trade. Without the continuing viability of existing and expanded trade, both the U.S. and Mexican economies will suffer.
The paper, among other goals, calls for the establishment of secure trade routes connecting Mexico’s manufacturing hubs to land ports on that country’s northern border. The hope is to eliminate or reduce the current fears of extortion, vehicle hijacking and kidnappings.
Security and Trade Committee
Kirk Lanz, San Diego, CA
The Security and Trade Committee oversees policies and procedures at the land border ports of entry, promoting policies that encourage and promote legitimate trade and travel while ensuring that border agencies – specifically Customs and Border Protection – have the tools necessary to safely carry out their important enforcement mission.
Cargo pre-processing pilot program
The security needs of the U.S. and our neighbors are better served when our borders are our last line of defense, not our first. To that end, the committee advocates for a joint demonstration project between CBP and the Canadian Border Services Agency at the Peace Bridge connecting Buffalo, NY and Ft. Erie, Ontario that would allow personnel from each country to process any trade paperwork in the country of origin before the shipment reaches the bridge. This would allow any issues to be dealt with before a truck reaches the port and has to be referred to a secondary inspection area, creating delays and causing an increased burden on inspectors. Such a demonstration would, hopefully, lay the groundwork for full pre inspection in the future.
Strengthening the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT)
The committee, under the auspices of its C-TPAT Subcommittee, is urging CBP to ensure that participants in the C-TPAT program are receiving tangible benefits for their membership and that the program remains attractive to new members and, in turn, results in improved supply chain security.
To that end, the committee is taking the lead in working to implement the recommendations outlined in the 2010 BTA paper, C-TPAT: Seven Years Later. The paper has been well received by CBP and the agency has encouraged BTA to put forth recommendations for pilot projects consistent with the paper’s findings. Goals include:
· Expanded hours of service where appropriate for C-TPAT traffic at ports of entry;
· Development of performance metrics;
· Priority to members at the inspection dock;
· Identify ports of entry where C-TPAT traffic and non-C-TPAT traffic are comingled most often;
· Increased transparency and predictability in post-incident analyses;
· Implementation of GAO 2007 findings;
· Improved information sharing with business partners;
· Receive trade input on next generation of C-TPAT portal
The trade community is a willing partner in Border Patrol and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms’ efforts to curb the illegal trafficking of firearms, ammunition and currency into Mexico that fuels that country’s cartel violence.
We encourage border agencies, however, to work with the trade community in designing an outbound inspection regime that effectively interdicts weapons and cash without creating an undue burden for border communities by stifling legitimate trade and travel.
The BTA has since 1996 been engaged on the issue of exit controls at the land borders. We have advised and will continue to advise Congress and DHS not to implement a US-VISIT exit control system that seeks to replicate the entry process at exit. Technology should be deployed that allows a traveler’s exit from the U.S. to be recorded and reconciled with his or entry record, using biometrics, without slowing that exit. If DHS seeks to deploy a system that results in traffic backups at the exit points and slows legitimate trade and travel, then BTA would oppose such a system.
CBP staffing levels and funding
The BTA every year weighs in on the Homeland Security appropriations bills, advocating for a funding level that is commensurate with the staffing, technology and infrastructure needs of our land border ports of entry. We were encouraged in 2010 with the passage and signing of a supplemental funding bill specifically to address border agency funding, and we supported two pieces of legislation that would have funded CBP personnel and infrastructure at the ports of entry at once-in-a-generation levels.
We must note, however, that funding for personnel will see little benefit to trade throughput or border security if new positions are not posted to the ports of entry and, instead, are allocated to other administrative functions.
Jesse Hereford, San Antonio, Texas
The Transportation Committee is responsible for developing the BTA’s positions on issues regarding mobility, infrastructure and trucking policy. The committee is engaged on transportation funding issues and the debate over cross-border trucking between the U.S. and Mexico.
Coordinated Border Infrastructure Program
The Coordinated Border Infrastructure Program provides funding, distributed by formula, to expedite safe and efficient vehicle and cargo movement at or across the land border between the U.S. and Canada and the land border between the U.S. and Mexico
The committee in 2011 calls for preservation of the CBI as its own separate funding stream in the next transportation bill.
Freight Intermodal Demonstration Pilot
The Freight Intermodal Demonstration Pilot provides funding for grants to facilitate intermodal freight transportation initiatives at the state and local level to relieve congestion and improve safety, and to provide capital funding to address infrastructure and freight distribution needs at inland ports and intermodal freight facilities. SAFETEA-LU names six projects, funded at $5 million each.
Of the previously designated projects, not one was on the U.S.-Mexico border. The committee advocates keeping the program while urging the secretary of the Department of Transportation to put prioritization on northern and southern border states.
National Corridor Infrastructure Improvement Program
The National Corridor Infrastructure Improvement Program provides funding for construction of designated highway projects in corridors of national significance.
The committee urges the preservation of this funding stream to ensure that border trade corridors are adequately funded.
The U.S. is in violation of NAFTA’s cross-border trucking articles and, as a result, has been hit with retaliatory tariffs by Mexico, thus harming U.S. exporters. The BTA has long called for the U.S. to comply with the NAFTA and reach an agreement with Mexico over how best to implement a cross-border trucking program.
The committee is encouraged by the secretary of Transportation’s recent concept paper to reach a resolution over trucking. The committee has offered up its guidance to DOT over which ports would be the best location for trucking pilot program, and the committee will seek a seat for BTA on the advisory committee once a formal public comment period on draft trucking rules begins.