Friday, April 27, 2012

Canada Border Services Agency President Luc Portelance

Customs Attorney Peter Quinter and CBSA President Luc Portelance

Luc Portelance, President, Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and I had dinner along with a small delegation from the Canadian Consulate in Miami. The CBSA is the Canadian equivalent of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Mr. Portelance was returning to Ottowa, Canada via Miami from Punta del Este, Uruguay, where the members of the World Customs Organization (WCO) had met to attempt to harmonize the complex rules of the various customs administrations.  Our discussion at dinner varied from using targeting technology to separate high-risk from low-risk cargo, the benefits of voluntary programs such as CBP's Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) and Global Entry, and the costs and harm to business for delayed cargo selected for examination. 

It was interesting to compare CBP to the CBSA. CBP has 60,000 employees and the CBSA has only 15,000.  CBP includes the U.S. Border Patrol, and has an Air and Marine Division, while the CBSA has none of that but relies upon the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, as well as other law enforcement agencies. Interestingly, the Canadian Parliament has mandated a decrease in the annual budgets of the CBSA for the next three years whereas the U.S. Congress has always approved annual significant increases for CBP and other agencies within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. 

What struck me most at the conclusion of our 2 hour conversation was that Mr. Portelance sounds much more like a businessman than a government bureaucrat.  While acknowledging the importance of security in both the cargo and passenger environments, Mr. Portelance emphasized the importance of facilitating trade and travel.  Hopefully, over 10 years after the tragedy of 9-11-01, all of the country members of the WCO will come to the same realization.

On a personal level, Mr. Portelance was entertaining and informative. He hails from Montreal which was helpful since that is where I will travel on my summer holiday.  He has been the President of the CBSA for approximately 4 years, and his professional background is the intelligence community.

Peter Quinter, Shareholder
Customs and International Trade Law Group
GrayRobinson, P.A.
1221 Brickell Ave.
Suite 1600
Miami, Florida 33131
(305) 416-6960

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