Trade Programs Expedite the US-Canada Border Process

A study of U.S./Canada border crossing delays found the average wait was 29 minutes.  But for participants in the U.S./Canada “Free and Secure Trade Program” (FAST), the wait time was only eight minutes.  The study, conducted by the International Mobility and Trade Corridor Project (IMTC) concluded trusted shipper programs are effective in reducing border congestion.  Which raises the question:  Why would any reputable logistics or transportation provider that offers service between the U.S. and Canada not take advantage of trusted trade program opportunities?

Businesses with regular U.S./Canada transactions should take a few minutes to familiarize themselves with current trusted trade programs, and to make sure their logistics provider is a member in good standing!

Joint U.S./Canada Program

  • Free and Secure Trade Program (FAST): FAST is a joint initiative between the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) that offers expedited clearance for low-risk commercial shipments. Eligible carriers must complete a background check and fulfill certain eligibility requirements. Benefits of FAST include:
    • Access to dedicated lanes (where available) at border crossings for greater speed and efficiency
    • Reduced number of inspections
    • Enhanced supply chain security
    • FAST membership card can be used as proof of identification
    • Streamlined process that reduces delivery times and landed costs of imports
    • Allows border agents to focus on higher risk shipments

Canadian Programs

  • Partners in Protection (PIP): CBSA program enlists the voluntary cooperation of private industry to enhance border security and verify the safety of the supply chain.  Participating businesses agree to implement and adhere to high security standards throughout their supply chains.  In exchange, PIP members are considered “trusted traders,” and entitled to expedited clearance and additional preferential treatment.
  • Customs Self Assessment (CSA): Program administered by CBSA designed for low-risk, pre-approved importers, carriers, and registered drivers.  Membership in the CSA program simplifies the border crossing process for low-risk shipments so that border agents can allocate resources to higher-risk shipments.  CSA is the foundation for the FAST program.

U.S. Programs

  • Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT): Joint business-government initiative, administered by CBP, that enhances U.S. border security by verifying the safety of the supply chain.  Businesses that apply to be C-TPAT members agree to conduct a self-assessment of supply chain security and to encourage their business partners to verify the security of their supply chains.  In exchange C-TPAT participants receive certain benefits including:
    • Reduced number of border inspections
    • Access to C-TPAT membership list
    • Eligibility for account-based processes (bimonthly/monthly payments, etc.)
    • Emphasis of voluntary participation, rather than government mandate
  • Importer Self Assessment (ISA): C-TPAT members are eligible to participate in CBP’s Importer Self Assessment program, which exempts importers from certain CBP audits in exchange for establishing internal compliance controls.  Through ISA, an importer will conduct an internal audit of its own compliance record, and determine and address and risk areas.
  • Certified Cargo Screening Program (CCSP): Administered by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), CCSP allows qualified transportation carriers and logistics providers to screen air cargo away from an airport, at a certified location.  CCSP was developed as a way to address expected congestion and wait periods following a Congressional mandate that all cargo transported on passenger aircraft be pre-screened as of August 1, 2010.

If it sounds like there is a lot of overlap between these programs, you are correct.  In fact, a key tenet of the 2011 U.S.-Canada “Beyond the Border” initiative called for increased harmonization of trusted shipper programs.  Efforts are underway to improve coordination between C-TPAT and PIP, for example, so that going forward, applicants will use a single application and share processing and documentation practices.

What programs is your company utilizing and if they are not, why?