On May 4, the U.S. and the European Union formally signed a Mutual Recognition Decision to harmonize their cargo security programs. This agreement will lower costs, increase efficiency, and improve security throughout the global supply chain.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Acting Commissioner David Aguilar and European Union Taxation and Customs Union Directorate (TAXUD) Director-General Heinz Zourek signed the decision after a roundtable discussion with members of the trade community.

When the agreement is implemented, both U.S. and EU customs authorities will treat members of the U.S. Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) and the EU’s Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) program the same. The target date for implementation is January 2013.

C-TPAT is a voluntary government-business initiative to build cooperative relationships that strengthen and improve overall international supply chain and U.S. border security. AEO is a foreign partnership program that is used as a risk-assessment tool to decrease redundancy and duplication efforts. Around 5,000 companies are approved as Authorized Economic Operators within the EU, and more than 10,000 companies are certified under C-TPAT in the United States.

“Today’s decision on the mutual recognition of the EU and U.S. trade partnership programmes is a win-win achievement: It will save time and money for trusted operators on both sides of the Atlantic while it will allow customs authorities to concentrate their resources on risky consignments and better facilitate legitimate trade,” said Director-General Zourek in a press release.

Lauren Airey is director of trade facilitation policy, National Association of Manufacturers.

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