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Preparing for an Import Slowdown and Government Shutdown

In recent years, the risk of a government shutdown has been high due to political polarization. Government shutdowns in the past, such as the one that occurred in December 2018 and January 2019 have all ended without much incident. But the risk to import flows to the USA are too big to ignore.

During a government shutdown, the U.S Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will likely will continue to operate as their activities are deemed essential. However, It is difficult to predict exactly when or how long a government shutdown may occur.

In the case of U.S Customs and Border Protection (CBP) as well as partner agencies, some employees may be furloughed. See section below on other government agencies that may be affected a government slowdown.

So while core customs may function, other necessary activities in the import process could cause delays in the clearance process. Delays in the total process to clear and recover goods at ports of entry, along with inspections and enforcement activities will likely b delayed.

Preparing For Importing Delays in Case of a Government Shutdown


Move Up Your Shipments Date to ASAP to prepare for import delays

There is still time to get goods imported before any delays are expected. Delays would probably start to accrue within 2-4 weeks following a full shutdown. The concern is that even a short shut down period could create a bottle neck no unlike the Covid related delays in the entire supply chain.

Set up access to express clearance processes

An express consignment facility (ECF) is a type of facility that is used for express clearance. ECF's are typically located near airports in gateway cities. They are used to quickly and efficiently handle the large volume of packages that are shipped through these express carriers.

ECF's have special privileges with US customs for express handling.The operators of ECF's reimburse customs for this privilege of express clearance.

Gaining access to an ECCF requires some set up and, anyway, should be used as a way to secure your supply chain to USA.This is especially true for packages and shipments valued under $2,500 US.

Ship to the USA

Low Cost to Manage Low Risk with High Impact of a Shutdown

Even if the political posturing is real, we the risk of an extended shutdown is probably low. And it especially unlikely to cause significant clearance delays. BUT, the potential for delays remain and the delays could quickly create significant backlogs.AND, the cost of being proactive is - at this point - minimal.

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Customs Is Consider Critical but What About Other Agencies?

There are several US customs partner agencies that are often involved in the clearance process for goods entering the country.

Other Government Agency need for timely import can include:

  • U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA): Responsible for ensuring that imported agricultural products meet established standards for food safety, plant health, and animal welfare. 
  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA): Responsible ensuring compliance for food, drugs, medical devices, and cosmetics.
  • U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC): Responsible for enforcing regulations  related to anti-dumping and countervailing duty.
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): Enforces regulations related to the import of certain chemicals, pesticides, and other hazardous materials.

These are the main partner agencies with US Customs, but depending on the type of goods, other agencies such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) or the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) may also be involved.

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