Monday, December 28, 2020

Agathon Associates Comments on Proposal for Continuing Education for Customs Brokers

SUMMARY: U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is considering the amendment of its regulations to mandate continuing education for licensed customs brokers. CBP is seeking comments on a potential framework of continuing education requirements for licensed customs brokers in order to assess the current situation among members of the customs broker industry and analyze the potential impact of such a framework on customs brokers.

Agathon Associates submitted the following comments.

I am a Licensed Customs Broker (License # 30179). I have been licensed since June 4, 2014.

I support the proposal for continuing education requirements for brokers, provided the requirements do not impose a significant financial burden on small business such as mine.

I am a consultant in international trade, and I acquired my license as a credential to validate my competence to clients, potential clients, and CBP officers. My business model is to examine a client's current import activity and determine whether they are using to the correct HTSUS classifications, are otherwise in compliance with the regulations, and whether there are potential cost savings through use of free trade agreements, preference programs, the miscellaneous tariff bill, foreign-trade ones, and, when they were in effect, Section 301 exclusions. In the course of my evaluation of their programs, I find errors which have resulted in under-payment or over-payment of duties. I also find misconceptions as to the rules for the various tariff mitigation provisions. I find errors and omissions due to (1) brokers relying on inaccurate information from a client who does not understand the regulation, (2) brokers relying on information from the exporter, who may understand the regulations in the exporting country, but not the U.S. regulations, and (3) brokers not keeping current on the ever-changing regulations.

I agree with CBP "that through government-provided, online education opportunities alone, an individual license holder can obtain 40 hours of continuing education over 3 years." While "Credit could be given to established corporate training, courses offered by customs brokers associations," as recognized by CBP, I strongly urge that any non-government-provided education by optional. (1) Non-governmental providers change considerable fees for their educational programs, which, if mandatory, would be a substantial burden on small business. (2) Education offered by non-government providers would not have the assurance of accuracy that government provided education would afford brokers. (3) Accepting non-government provided programs could risk the government appearing to favor some providers over others. (4) Mandatory education offered by non-government entities could result in small businesses paying their larger competitors for training. I am a broker in a small business and would be able to avail myself of internet-based training, however, for the reasons noted above, I strongly prefer to access government-provided training.

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