Whoever says that homeland security is a domestic enterprise misses the big picture (and a number of posts here). GAO this month released a study commissioned by the Congress that investigates how U.S. Customs and Border Protection engages the global community to harmonize security standards intended to secure the international supply chain. “CBP has taken a lead role in working with foreign customs administrations and the World Customs Organization (WCO),” GAO states.
Oceangoing cargo containers serve as the lifeblood of global trade. Yet they also pose a risk of terrorist exploitation, according to the GAO and numerous other studies. CBP is the main government entity in the U.S. responsible for overseeing security of the global supply chain.
The adoption of uniform international customs security standards is the foundation for governance frameworks that can support greater security through mutual recognition of customs security-related practices and programs. Ultimately, such governance frameworks enable partnering nations to recognize and accept security measures taken by another administration. This leads to less porous security networks, greater efficiencies, and a more resilient global economy.
CBP collaborated with eleven other members of the WCO to develop the Framework of Standards to Secure and Facilitate Global Trade (SAFE Framework), which draws upon familiar concepts of the Container Security Initiative (CSI) and the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT). While these two programs have their flaws, the SAFE Framework provides standards for collaboration among numerous national customs organizations participating in the global supply chain. As of July 2008, 154 WCO members had signed letters of intent to implement the SAFE Framework standards.
While the SAFE Framework establishes a system of mutual recognition for smoother global trade among interdependent countries, it is by no means the only effort underway to harmonize global supply chain security initiatives. GAO reports that in June 2007, “CBP signed a mutual recognition arrangement with New Zealand – the first such arrangement in the world – to recognize each other’s customs-to-business partnership programs.” Just this summer, CBP signed mutual recognition agreements with Jordan and Canada, and by early 2009, CBP anticipates establishing a mutual recognition agreement with the European Commission, representing 27 nations of the European Union.