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U.S.Customs, industry team up on border security

DETROIT (CNN) -- In the shadow of the Ambassador Bridge linking the United States and Canada, business and government officials announced Tuesday the inauguration of a new initiative to guard against terrorism without unnecessarily impeding international trade.

In the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT), businesses take significant steps toward policing themselves at international borders in exchange for a quicker trip through customs.

"The message should be clear -- if a business takes steps to secure its cargo against terrorism, we will give it the 'fast lane' through the border," said Customs Commissioner Robert C. Bonner. "C-TPAT is a program through which businesses win, governments win, and most importantly, the American people win."

U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill called the program "the greatest 'in your face' response to terrorism that we could possibly have," and Tom Ridge, the director of the U.S. Office of Homeland Security, said it reflected a re-examination of national security issues.

"If America has the opportunity to make a strategic investment that not only enhances security but makes us a better, safer, stronger, or healthier country, then we need to do that," Ridge said. "If you secure every home town, then the homeland is secure,"

After the September 11 terrorist attacks, international trade suffered a serious slowdown as Customs tightened security at the nation's borders. Michigan Gov. John Engler, noting that more trade crosses the Ambassador Bridge in a year than occurs between the United States and Japan through all contacts, said C-TPAT aims to "put in safeguards without causing undue traffic delays."

For C-TPAT participants, the program would establish dedicated commercial lanes wherever possible at highway crossing points, an assigned account manager to facilitate the traffic, reduced inspections and other benefits.

Businesses must apply to participate, and sign an agreement committing them to:

-- Conduct a comprehensive self-assessment of supply-chain security using guidelines developed by Customs in concert with the trade industry;

-- Submit a supply-chain security questionnaire to Customs;

-- Develop and implement a security enhancement program;

-- Share C-TPAT guidelines with other companies in the supply chain and encourage their participation.

BP America, DaimlerChrysler, Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp., Motorola, Sara Lee and Target are C-TPAT's first participants. Sixty other companies have signed agreements and the applications of 100 more are pending.




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