Andrea Ewart interviewed Tamica Solomon, the Acting Director of the United States-Mexico Canada (USMCA) Center. A summary of the interview follows.  The interview can be heard in its entirety here.

The USMCA Center was recently opened by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to implement and help coordinate the Agreement, which entered into force on July 1, 2020, the date of this interview. “CBP is prepared for comprehensive and transparent implementation of USMCA and we are dedicated to working with the trade community.” said the USMCA Center’s Acting Director. “CBP launched the USMCA Center in March of 2020 with the purpose of serving as a one-stop shop for information concerning USMCA.” Elaborating on the function of the USMCA Center, Ms. Solomon continued, “CBP will communicate with trade stakeholders about the implementation process as we continue to transition from NAFTA to USMCA. Since going live, our Center has trained more than 2,000 customs brokers, trade attorneys, traders, freight forwarders and producers nationwide and in Mexico and Canada.”

With trained personnel at the Center and Ports, the USMCA Center’s staff has been empowered to address questions and concerns at the local level.  The Center also has a website (www.cbp.gov/usmca) with information and resources, including a 24-hour chatbot.

Primary Differences Between USMCA and NAFTA

  • The #USMCA will be reviewed by the three parties every six years and sunsets after 16 years, allowing the US to renegotiate the provisions with its Mexican and Canadian partners.
  • 75% of automobile parts must now be built in North America to qualify for duty-free treatment, an increase from NAFTA’s 62.5% Regional Value Content requirement.
  • Under USMCA’s new Labor Value Content requirement, new automotive goods will receive preferential task treatments only if the workers were paid a minimum of $16 per hour.
  • As a result of higher import quotas, Canada will give increased access to American dairy products.
  • Provisions on e-commerce and digital trade, which did not exist in the NAFTA agreement, include a prohibition on the application of custom duties to products distributed electronically; the use of electronic authentication and signatures; and limitations on governments’ ability to require disclosure of confidential computer source code and algorithms, allowing digital suppliers to protect their competitiveness.
  • Instead of an official Certificate of Origin, the USMCA has Certification of Origin requirements that allow for any format to be used so long as it contains the number of data elements set out in the USMCA’s Annex 5-A and the CBP’s implementing instructions.

Support During USMCA Transition 

Ms. Solomon indicated that, in order to provide the Trade sufficient time to adjust to the new requirements, CBP may in appropriate cases, show restraint in enforcement during the 6-month period beginning July 1, 2020. Importers are still required to exercise reasonable care when making a claim under the USMCA. That includes ensuring they are in possession of a complete and valid Certification of Origin at the time of making a claim and meeting all their recordkeeping requirements. The USMCA Center also anticipates the need to provide additional support to traders during the next few months and will continue to support the trade for the next 3-5 years.

The interview concluded with Ms. Solomon sharing her personal journey to this important and influential position as Acting Director of the USMCA Center. She attributed her career in public service to her primary goal of providing effective and efficient service to the public.  Ms. Solomon advised, “Have a purpose, set a goal to achieve that purpose, be the best at what you do, take risks, and remain resilient.”

Contact us to learn more and to discuss how we can support you in effectively making the transition to the new US-Mexico-Canada Agreement. DevelopTradeLaw LLC in Washington DC provides customs and trade law consulting services.