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Part 10


National Partnership for Reinventing Government


Imagine this: Twenty loaded semis roll south toward the U.S. border at Buffalo, New York, carrying diverse cargo -- electronics, fish, lumber, auto parts -- destined for U.S. consumers. Hours earlier, information about the drivers, trucks, and shipments was sent by each shipper to the border station via the Internet. Satellite-based tracking devices relay the trucks' positions as they approach the U.S. One by one, nineteen trucks are waved through Customs without stopping, their cargo recorded and automatically available for the day's tally of U.S.-Canada trade statistics. One of the twenty trucks -- identified in advance as a shipper of concrete posts coming across the border for the first time -- is stopped for inspection. A close inspection reveals that the concrete posts contain the largest shipment of cocaine ever intercepted.

Already under development, the International Trade Data System will provide user-friendly electronic access to basic export and import information, market research reports, overseas contacts, duty rates, and information on international trade financial assistance. It will integrate information from 100 different government agencies (operational, statistical, trade promotion, licensing and permitting, and trade policy). The International Trade Data System will also standardize the trade and transportation data that is collected by operational agencies (Customs Service, Immigration and Naturalization Service, Department of Transportation, Food and Drug Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Agriculture) for both imports and exports. The standardized data will be the same information importers and exporters use in their normal conduct of business. The development program is being led by the International Trade Data System Board of Directors, which represents the participating agencies.


Technology has made the world a much smaller place. Voice and data communications link large countries and major cities with the most remote outpost.

Flourishing global commerce builds a strong economy, increases demand for goods and services, and promotes stability. Conditions have never been better for strengthening the economic ties among governments. Today, however, such commerce is often hampered by antiquated paper processes that slow or even choke the flow of goods and services. Truck drivers who carry international shipments routinely plan on waiting several days at many border crossing points. Some make hotel reservations well in advance of their arrival dates. Others sleep on cots beside the road and try to avoid the hot sun.

Meanwhile, enforcement agencies drown in duplicative data, spending too much time checking the good guys and not enough on catching the bad. And our ability to establish and negotiate policy is weakened by unreliable information in such areas as currency conversion, the safety of vehicles entering the country, and the volume of truck traffic for highway infrastructure.


1. Use the North American Trade Automation Prototype to validate the International Trade Data System concept.

The North American Trade Automation Prototype should be used to provide the proof of concept for the International Trade Data System. The Prototype, a system being implemented as part of the North American Free Trade Agreement, is jointly operated by Canada, Mexico, and the United States under the auspices of the Heads of Customs Conference. The Prototype will test many key features of the International Trade Data System. These include using commercial transaction level information for all shipments, standard data elements and definitions, pre-arrival processing, and Radio Frequency Identification Devices mounted on conveyances to provide notice of arrival and paperless transactions. The Internet is used for the transmission of electronic data interchange messages.

During the test, information will be available to participating trade agencies to analyze prior to the arrival of the conveyance or other cargo at the international border. The Prototype will interface with other commercial and government systems, including the Customs Service Automated Commercial System, Dunn and Bradstreet World Base, and the Department of Transportation Commercial Vehicle Information Systems and Networks.

Currently being field tested in Otay Mesa, CA, the Prototype is scheduled for implementation in April 1997 at Nogales, AZ; Buffalo, NY; Detroit, MI; El Paso, TX; and Laredo, TX.

Testing should be completed by September 1997.

2. Eliminate unnecessary reporting.

A major benefit of this initiative will be the elimination of duplicative government reporting requirements on shippers and the standardization of the remaining data using commercial business information. The first step is to identify the minimum information federal agencies actually need. The International Trade Data System Board of Directors should complete its analysis of the data requirements of the various federal international trade agencies by June 1997.

3. Develop and execute an implementation plan.

Exporters, international transportation companies, importers, customs house brokers, and their respective business partners will benefit from the International Trade Data System. Those international traders will expect the new system to provide less costly data filing, more efficient and less cumbersome regulatory interventions in trade flow, and better information regarding the processing status of their shipments.

Numerous federal agencies will experience an improvement in licensing, border clearance, statistical, policy, and trade promotion activities because of the more accurate and timely international trade information available through International Trade Data System.

Finally, business analysts, economic forecasters, and educational institutions will have access to information that will allow them to more intelligently plan U.S. international trade strategies.

By June 1998, the International Trade Data System Board of Directors, using the results of the North American Trade Automation Prototype, and in consultation with private sector stakeholders, should develop a plan to implement the International Trade Data System and present it to the Government Information Technology Services (GITS) Board for concurrence. The plan should identify and assess barriers to implementation and make recommendations for their removal.

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