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Mar. 03, 2014

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OBAMA SIGNS ORDER TO SPEED CARGO PROCESSING U.S. CUSTOMS AND Border Protection said Presi- dent Obama's signing of an executive order last month to streamline cargo processing creates a roadmap for completion, puts a spotlight on the importance of trade and raises awareness of the need for other federal agencies to help speed freight clearance. Aboard Air Force One and on his way to Toluca, Mexico, to meet with his Mexican and Canadian counterparts, Obama on Feb. 19 signed an order requiring the Interna- tional Trade Data System to be finished by 2017. The system, often referred to as the "single win- dow," will allow brokers and shippers to transmit necessary documents electronically in minutes instead of waiting for days and should reduce their need to file duplicative paperwork, sav- ing shippers time and money. Work to complete the ITDS had been ogressing faster in conjunction with the targeted 2016 completion of Customs' Automated Commercial Environment, but Acting Commissioner Thomas Winkowski said Obama has made wrapping up the ITDS project an executive branch statutory requirement and given it a deadline. The executive order also raises the "visibility" of the need for other federal agencies to determine what information related to cargo processing they need from importers and exporters, said Brenda Smith, executive director at the ACE Business Office of International Trade. Getting that information from all 47 federal agen- cies involved in the processing of imports and exports is key to Customs completing ACE by Oct. 1, 2016. U.S. CONTAINER IMPORTS jumped in January, then fell in February, but are expected to rebound strongly in the coming months, according to the February Global Port Tracker published by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associ- ates. Ports and distribution centers are getting a break after the busy holiday season, but it won't last long. Retailers will be moving spring mer- chandise toward their shelves in a few weeks, "and early numbers point to a busy season ahead," said Jonathan Gold, the NRF's vice president for supply chain and customs policy. January imports rose 4.5 percent in January, fell 8.4 per- cent in the traditionally slow month of February and will expand 13.7 percent year-over-year in March, he said. The post-holiday months are gen- erally a slow time of the year, but February will be especially weak because the Chinese New Year celebration began this year on Jan. 31. Many fac- tories in Asia close for two weeks or longer during the holiday period, and U.S. merchandise imports therefore plummet. Carriers are responding to the drop in cargo by canceling voyages and put- ting some vessels into dry dock for maintenance and repair during the slow period. The NRF, however, predicts 2014 retail sales will increase 4.1 percent. Merchants will begin stocking their shelves with spring merchandise this month, followed by the summer and back-to-school shop- ping seasons, PIERS, the data division of JOC Group Inc., reports U.S. containerized imports were up 3.2 percent in 2013, at 17.9 million TEUs. RETAILERS EXPECT STRONG IMPORT GROWTH Spotlight 6 THE JOURNAL OF COMMERCE MARCH 3.2014 6 THE JOURNAL OF COMMERCE

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