September 29,2006

Baucus Details Final Port Security Agreement

Senator praises balance on trade and security, criticizes scant rail, transit protections

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, tonight expressed his support for a final agreement on port security legislation. Baucus co-authored the Senate version of the bill with Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and leaders of the Homeland Security and Commerce Committees. The legislation authorizes $400 million annually for port security grants, as well as more than $800 million for the Container Security Initiative, the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism, and the Automated Targeting System. It requires the Department of Homeland Security to issue regulations on container security standards, and the implementation, as soon as possible, of an efficient system to scan 100 percent of cargo that leaves foreign ports bound for the United States. While these provisions provided important protections for vibrant international trade in U.S. land and sea ports, the final agreement did not contain essential rail and transit security measures.

“This bill lacks important rail and transit protections passed by the Senate, but it does retain the right balance between trade and security. It ensures that the trade so essential to the U.S. economy will still thrive under stronger security measures,” said Baucus. “It would have been easy to sacrifice trade for security, or security for trade, but this bill appropriately addresses both.”

The Senate Finance Committee oversees the international trade functions of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). To provide both additional security and efficiency for international trade through U.S. ports, the legislation passed today:

Establishes an Office of International Trade at Customs and Border Protection – This office unifies trade policy resources under one Assistant Commissioner for International Trade, who will ensure an appropriate focus on CBP’s trade mission.

Establishes an International Trade Committee – This committee will be comprised of the Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner, the Assistant Commissioners for International Trade, Field Operations, International Affairs, and Finance, and the Director of Trade Relations, to set a precedent of visible, robust and accountable trade policy direction within CBP.

Adds uniformed personnel for U.S. ports of entry – In response to concerns that CBP does not have enough armed, uniformed officers at our ports, the bill includes more than $600 million dollar authorization for 1000 additional officers for U.S. ports around the country. CBP officers are responsible for both trade and security in U.S. ports.

Restores trade personnel – The bill requires CBP to comply with the directive in the 2002 Homeland Security Act that neither the trade mission of nor the trade personnel at U.S. ports should be diminished, consolidated or reduced. It requires the Commissioner to report to the Committee on Finance on his compliance with this Act.

Establishes an International Trade Data System – The bill requires an interagency steering committee in the Executive branch to oversee a single-portal trade data system for use by all federal agencies requiring advance data submissions on exports or imports. The system will reduce redundant submissions and improve efficient clearance of cargos. The bill requires makes participation by all federal agencies mandatory, unless the Office of Management and Budget provides a waiver for national security reasons.

Adds personnel for the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) – The C-TPAT is a CBP program that offers preferential cargo processing for U.S. importers who meet certain security requirements. The bill nearly doubles the number of CBP personnel currently available to speed up validations and keep importers invested in the program’s success.

Initiates integrated container scanning abroad - Includes a pilot program to implement integrated container scanning technology at three foreign ports, in order to scan 100 percent of cargo bound for the U.S. from those ports.

“Customs and Border Protection can now have the tools and the personnel to do both its jobs: protecting our ports and facilitating commerce at those ports,” said Baucus.

# # #