Archive for the ‘Advisory Committee’ Category

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Innovative Customs Procedures in Laredo, Texas Accelerate U.S. Exports to Mexico

November 18, 2019

Last month, from October 16-17, industry leaders and officials from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration (ITA) traveled to Laredo, Texas, one of the premier cities for U.S.-Mexico trade.

With over $100 billion in U.S. exports processed in 2018 alone, customs officials on both sides of the border face increasing demands to perform efficient and effective inspections. The Laredo International Airport has seized upon this growing commercial opportunity by innovating their customs process and establishing a unique bi-national inspection facility in 2013. ITA’s Advisory Committee on Supply Chain Competitiveness (ACSCC) had the privilege of touring and learning more about this facility and its achievements over the past several years.

ACSCC-ITA oustide Laredo Airport Inspection Station 110819

Members of the ACSCC and ITA toured the Laredo airport’s Federal Inspection Station and met with U.S. and Mexican customs officials

 The Federal Inspection Station at the Laredo airport, the first of its kind, houses both U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) and Mexican customs officials (Servicio de Administración Tributaria, or SAT), who jointly perform inspection checks on U.S. exports within a single facility. With goods examined by both agencies in one location, U.S. exports can have expedited entry into airports in eight Mexican cities, allowing for uninterrupted delivery within Mexico. Cargo cleared at this facility can be immediately released to the importer in Mexico with no pauses at customs in these Mexican airports.

Elizabeth Merritt, Managing Director for Cargo Services at Airlines for America and ACSCC member, highlighted the importance of streamlined customs procedures to U.S. industries and value chains saying, “by leveraging a bilateral customs partnership, the Laredo airport boosts the competitiveness of the North American supply chain while maximizing the limited resources of all stakeholders to ensure trade compliance.”

The joint inspection process helps American companies avoid production delays by reducing the amount of time it takes to receive necessary parts and is especially critical for just-in-time deliveries. “Our largest trading partner in the United States is Mexico, so the ability to quickly clear expedited exports heading to that country is essential,” said Brandon Fried, Executive Director of The Airforwarders Association and member of the ACSCC.

Establishing this customs facility was no easy feat. Its creation required both a passage of a law in Mexico’s Congress of the Union and an amendment to the Mexican Constitution, but it was well worth the effort. Today, the Laredo International Airport features the only bi-national federal inspection station in the United States and is the only airport that has approval by the Mexican government to pre-inspect air cargo bound for delivery in Mexico.

Currently this accelerated customs treatment is available for products in the automotive,aerospace, and electronics industries. Importers, shippers, and other logistics companies can also benefit from round-the-clock service from the customs officials, as Laredo has the only airport on the southern border with U.S. customs open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

During their visit to the facility, members of the ACSCC, all experts in the policies and logistics surrounding U.S. supply chains, received a presentation on the Federal Inspection Station’s activities and spoke with both U.S. and Mexican customs officials to better understand their joint procedures.

“Witnessing the high level of cooperation and information sharing between the U.S. and Mexican customs authorities at the Laredo Airport Federal Inspection Station was an eye-opening experience, showing how such international joint efforts can streamline the border clearance process,” said Michal Mullen, Executive Director of the Express Association of America and ACSCC member. “The trade community has long desired to have this kind of international ‘single window’ operating on the border, and we hope the process will be expanded to more air and land crossing points in the near future.”

ACSCC member at Mexican and US border official 110819

ACSCC member Brandon Fried with a Mexican customs official and a U.S. CBP agent.

Mr. Fried also expressed hopes for the future activities of this bi-national facility saying, “my organization is pleased to see Mexican customs officials working alongside their CBP counterparts at Laredo International Airport. Their joint presence under the same roof enables easy preclearance on air export shipments destined for several manufacturing centers throughout Mexico. We look forward to the program’s continued success and hope to see similar arrangements at other U.S. airports in the future.”

Looking forward, the officials based at the Federal Inspection Station see room for growth, especially as approval of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) could lead to a surge in trade between the neighboring countries. CBP and SAT officials expressed their desire to grow awareness of their collaborative program and to expand the list of qualified products for inspection. Experts from the Laredo airport have already been invited to pilot similar programs at other airports in the United States, and customs agents believe the joint facility is prepared to handle greater volumes of U.S. exports in the future. This innovative, bi-national process can serve as a model to other ports and cities seeking to expedite inspections for the benefit of U.S. industry.

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How to Become a Member of our Trade Finance Advisory Council

September 10, 2018

Ericka Ukrow is a Senior International Trade Specialist in the Industry & Analysis Office of Finance and Insurance Industries in the International Trade Administration and serves as the Designated Federal Officer for the Trade Finance Advisory Council.

Interested in Advising the Secretary of Commerce on Trade Finance Solutions?

I have great news! The U.S. Department of Commerce has announced the re-chartering of its Trade Finance Advisory Council (“TFAC” or the “Council”). This federal advisory committee advises the Secretary on how to expand access to finance for U.S. exporters and their foreign buyers.

What Does the TFAC Do?

During its first two-year term, the TFAC provided detailed policy and technical recommendations to enhance private and official financing options for U.S. companies—and grew to become a premier platform for government engagement with the private sector on trade finance.

In its renewed charter term, the TFAC will bring together an expanded number of trade finance professionals and thought leaders and will for the first time include, as ex-officio members, representatives from the Export-Import Bank of the United States and the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The TFAC works to advance the Department’s strategic goal of increasing U.S. exports and job creation by reducing the costs, complexities, and risks of exporting. In particular, the Council:

  • Evaluates credit conditions and financing challenges faced by U.S. exporters,
  • Identifies potential resources for addressing financing gaps,
  • Examines how new financial technologies and other innovations could improve the availability and affordability of trade finance solutions,
  • Highlights trade finance-related developments in international standard setting bodies, and
  • Addresses other noteworthy concerns raised by Council members and the public.

How Is the TFAC Structured?

The TFAC is comprised of up to 25 members appointed by the Secretary of Commerce to serve for a two-year term. Members do not receive compensation for their service to the Council.

Except for those Members who are trade finance experts from academia and public policy organizations, TFAC Members express their own views and insights and those of the entity or organization and industry sector they represent. Those Members who serve as experts from academia and public policy organizations are subject to ethical standards applicable to special government employees.

What Are the Criteria for TFAC Membership?

The TFAC is seeking executive-level candidates who will reflect a balanced cross-section of U.S. trade finance users, providers, and experts from private, public, and not-for-profit organizations. We are looking for business representatives from diverse industries, regions, and company sizes—including:

  • U.S. exporters of goods and services,
  • U.S. commercial banks that provide trade finance products, cross-border payment services, or foreign exchange solutions,
  • Non-bank U.S. financial institutions that provide trade finance products, cross-border payment services, or foreign exchange solutions,
  • Associations that represent (i) U.S. exporters, and/or (ii) commercial banks or non-bank financial institutions (or other professionals) that facilitate international trade transactions,
  • U.S. companies or entities focused on trade-finance-related activities or services;
  • U.S. scholars, academic institutions, or public policy organizations with expertise in global business, trade finance, and international banking related subjects, and
  • Economic development organizations and other U.S. regional, state, and local governmental and non-governmental organizations whose missions or activities include the analysis, provision, or facilitation of trade finance products/services.

Members will be selected based on their ability to achieve the Council’s objectives, in accordance with applicable Department of Commerce guidelines and in a manner that ensures a variety and balance of views.

When is the Deadline for Membership Applications?

To be considered, applicants must submit the required documentation by 5:00 p.m. EDT, Monday, October 15, 2018 to TFAC@trade.gov.

For full membership criteria and application details, please review the Federal Register notice announcement, or the Council’s website at www.trade.gov/TFAC/.

For additional information, please contact Ericka Ukrow, Designated Federal Officer, Office of Finance and Insurance Industries, at (202) 482-0405, or at TFAC@trade.gov.

Click here to see our TFAC FAQs.

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STRENGTHENING CREDIT CONDITIONS FOR EXPORTING SMALL AND MEDIUM-SIZED ENTERPRISES

April 6, 2018

This post contains external links. Please review our external linking policy.

Ericka Ukrow is a Senior International Trade Specialist specializing in Financial Services at the International Trade Administration.

Photo of TFAC meeting in progress, Feb. 22, 2017. From left to right front row: TFAC Chair Kevin Klowden, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Commerce Deputy Assistant Secretary for Services James Sullivan, Designated Federal Officer for the TFAC Ericka Ukrow.

Meeting of the TFAC, February 22, 2018. From left to right front row: TFAC Chair Kevin Klowden, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Commerce Deputy Assistant Secretary for Services James Sullivan, Designated Federal Officer for the TFAC Ericka Ukrow.

Exporters, lenders, and researchers are working together to improve options for trade financing through the Department of Commerce’s Trade Finance Advisory Council (TFAC).

In an increasingly interconnected global economy, trade is taking a prominent role in our country’s economic growth.

The availability of finance is essential for a vigorous trading system. Most export transactions are supported by some form of financing or credit insurance. However, significant gaps in the global provision of trade finance remain.

Globally, the trade finance gap in 2017 was estimated at $1.5 trillion, with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) facing the greatest hurdles to access trade finance.

The TFAC advises the Secretary of Commerce on effective ways to increase access to financing resources for all U.S. exporters, especially SMEs. With up to 20 private-sector members representing financial and insurance services providers, manufacturing firms, trade finance industry associations, and research organizations, the TFAC’s thought-leadership coordinates perspectives from diverse stakeholders into the development of policies and programs in this area.

These insights help direct Commerce’s actions toward conducive framework conditions that would amplify U.S. exporters access to strategic educational and financing resources.

Over the last fifteen months, the TFAC has focused on:

  1. export finance best practices;
  2. enabling new private sector channels for the flow of credit to exporting SMEs;
  3. education strategies to reduce the information gap across government, community banks, and other enablers of SME finance;
  4. addressing financing process obstacles that impede SME credit;
  5. analyzing trade credit insurance underutilization in the United States; and
  6. reviewing the performance of alternative export credit agencies’ models.
Photo of TFAC meeting in progress, Feb. 17, 2018. From left to right: Alan Beard and Patricia Gomez (new members), Lou Tierno – Fulton Financial Corporation, Stacey Facter – Bankers Association for Finance and Trade, Peter Bowe – Ellicott Dredges, Gary Mendell - Meridian Finance Group, David Herer – ABC-Amega.

Meeting of the TFAC at the Commerce Department, February 22, 2018. From left to right: Alan Beard and Patricia Gomez (new members), Lou Tierno – Fulton Financial Corporation, Stacey Facter – Bankers Association for Finance and Trade, Peter Bowe – Ellicott Dredges, Gary Mendell – Meridian Finance Group, David Herer – ABC-Amega.

At the February TFAC meeting, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross recognized the Council for its critical role in advancing the Administration’s goal of reducing U.S. trade deficits by empowering more SMEs with financing solutions that would increase their export opportunities.

“While we seek to level the playing field and negotiate more favorable terms with our trading partners, we count on you to continue empowering SMEs in the international arena. Without adequate access to finance, it is difficult for U.S. exporters to sell their products and services globally.”

He also encouraged Council members to identify how emerging technologies, such as blockchain, could facilitate trade finance solutions and reduce risk for U.S. SME exporters.

The TFAC also welcomed Secretary Wilbur Ross’ new appointed members this year:

  • Steven Bash, Senior Vice President, International Banking, City National Bank
  • Alan Beard, Managing Director, Interlink Capital Strategies
  • Russell D’Souza, Vice President, Corporate Treasurer, Hanesbrands, Inc.
  • Patricia Gomes, Managing Director, Regional Head Global Trade and Receivables Finance North America, HSBC Bank USA, N.A.
  • William Browning, Senior Vice President, Business Credit – Trade Finance Manager, First National Bank
Photo of TFAC meeting in progress, Feb. 22, 2018. From left to right: Todd McCracken - National Small Business Association, Sergio Rodriguera - The Credit Junction, Karsten Herrmann - Munich Reinsurance America, Tim Gaul - Caterpillar, and new members Russell D’Souza and Steven Bash.

Meeting of the TFA at the Commerce Department, February 22, 2018. From left to right: Todd McCracken – National Small Business Association, Sergio Rodriguera – The Credit Junction, Karsten Herrmann – Munich Reinsurance America, Tim Gaul – Caterpillar, and new members Russell D’Souza and Steven Bash.

These new appointees expand the Council’s expertise in their representation of both users and providers of trade finance in the manufacturing, banking, and management consulting services sectors.

The TFAC expects to discuss improving the credit conditions and diversifying financing sources for U.S. exporters at their Spring meeting.

If you would like to learn more about the TFAC, you can visit our website or you can contact us at TFC@trade.gov.

If you are interested in becoming a member of the TFAC, stay tuned! The Council may be looking for applicants this summer. You can learn more here.