It is not very often that Canadian importers wake up to find out that there has been a breakthrough in Canadian government policy relative to border operations that importers have been requesting for many years. But on May 12, 2016, Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) issued a press release announcing an expansion of benefits for importers in the Trusted Trader program.
Traditionally, only importers who are members of the full Free And Secure Trade (FAST) program (FAST = Partners in Protection (PIP) + Customs Self Assessment (CSA)) could access expedited processing lanes at the border frontier points, known as FAST lanes. I can remember going back as far as 25 years ago, prior to the events of 9/11 and the ensuing WTO Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) programs meant to secure global supply chains, Canadian importers were arguing that companies who registered for the PIP program alone should be given access to the priority processing lanes at border frontier points.
CBSA viewed things differently back then. With the introduction of CSA, and the hopes by the CBSA that the CSA platform would become widely adopted and revolutionize the Canadian border, the plan was that in order for Canadian importers to access the coveted FAST lanes, they needed to be both PIP and CSA. It was hoped that this would encourage importers to join the CSA program.
It didn’t work.
Canadian importers have not signed up for CSA in large numbers for number of reasons, which I won’t discuss now, but what is important and worthy of discussion today is the fact that now, importers who register for either the PIP or CSA programs will have access to FAST lanes at specific land border crossings. Truck drivers must be FAST or Commercial Driver Registration Program (CDRP) approved, and the load must consist of eligible goods from the United States or Mexico.
While some of you may read the CBSA announcement and conclude it’s of no real benefit to your company because the border crossings in question are not the ones you traditionally use, what is important to note is that this is a shift in thinking on the part of CBSA that is truly historic.
This is the first step towards what importers have been saying for years: companies that undertake and invest in becoming PIP registrants or CSA importers as stand-alone programs should have access to the FAST lanes. They are companies that have invested in supply chain security (PIP) or intense customs compliance processes (CSA) and the fact that they are not registered in both programs, for whatever business reason, should not negate the fact that they have gone to extra lengths compared to importers who chose to join no programs. If trade compliance, health, safety and security are to be the primary focus of programs such as the FAST lanes, then being allowed to gain access to expedited processing at border frontier points by simply being in either the PIP or CSA programs should have always been allowed.
But the past is the past, and the future is starting to look much brighter as CBSA makes this breakthrough announcement. We hope and genuinely expect that this will be the beginning of a further expansion of this concept to eventually include all border crossings in Canada and maybe move into different modes of transport. (That said, I.E.Canada does acknowledge that the automotive industry is concerned about the lack of infrastructure in the Windsor area and their concern that if non FAST program importers gained access to the local bridges and tunnels, it could have a serious negative impact on the automotive industry supply chain operations. As such, Windsor Ontario area border crossings have been excluded at this point in time for reasons we understand and agree with. However, the hope is that in the future the infrastructure in that region will improve, thus allowing any Trusted Trader (PIP only, CSA only, or full FAST importers) access to cross any border crossing in the country.)
We applaud that progress is finally being made and I.E. Canada continues to sit at the table with CBSA actively discussing ways to enhance the entire Trusted Trader program on behalf of our members. Onwards and upwards!