Shutdown Post-mortem: The trade’s perspective.

After a sixteen day closure, the government reopened last Thursday.  While the public at large was fixated with closures of things like monuments and museums and national parks, the trade was focused on greater problems, the tools that were offline and the agencies which were unavailable.

Customs and Border Protection were deemed “essential” during the shutdown, which meant that they remained open for business.  However, importers whose cargo is regulated by any of a host of other agencies, including APHIS, FDA, Fish & Wildlife or the CPSC, saw significant delays in processing, assuming that their entries were even processed at all.

Some of the things we as Customs brokers dealt with during the shutdown included:

  • Fish & Wildlife moving from their online eDecs system back to a paper system that required checks and prohibited ACH or credit card payments.
  • FDA furloughing inspectors to review entries and prioritizing to perishables and medical goods for examinations.
  • CPSC not conducting testing on samples or not taking samples, period.
  • Several key websites were either left to go without updates (Customs) and some were taken down in their entirety, including the one that hosts the Harmonized Tariff Schedule.

This was not for the faint of heart.  We wish it had not happened in the first place and we are thankfully that many companies such as terminal operators and warehouses who could have taken advantage of the trade during this time were equally understanding.  However with the extremely short-term nature of the agreement, we are hoping that in three months we’re not making these same preparations all over again.