At the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America (NCBFAA) Annual Conference held in Orlando, Florida, last week, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Kerlikowske made some surprising comments in his prepared remarks.

Regarding the topic of "Trade Enforcement" by CBP, the Commissioner stated:

Even before my confirmation as Commissioner last year, I heard from trade and Congressional leaders about the importance of enforcing U.S. trade laws, and the critical role CBP plays in protecting American business and the U.S. market. I recognize those concerns, and we have made some important strides.

For example, CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations (ICE/HSI) continue to enhance training, processes, and operations to attack smuggling and explosive growth in shipments of counterfeit goods, many of which pose serious threats to public health, safety and both national and economic security.

And here is where it gets really interesting; where the rubber meets the road. Commissioner Kerlikowske exclaimed:

As a result, trade penalty assessments have increased by 140 percent from $385 million in Fiscal Year 2011 to $926 million in Fiscal Year 2014.

That is astounding!

It was obvious to me from the work I handle with the Fines, Penalties and Forfeitures Offices around the country on behalf of clients with penalties, seizures, and liquidated damages claims assessed by CBP against importers, exporters, trucking, ocean carriers, and airlines that CBP was more aggressive, but more than doubling the penalties in a few years seems over the top.