On 21 June 2017, the Federal Government announced that during its meeting on 21 June 2017, the Federal Council launched a consultation on a draft administrative assistance agreement in the customs area with the United States. The agreement is in the interests of the Swiss economy not least because it is a prerequisite for the conclusion of a possible agreement on the mutual recognition of customs security measures. The announcement stated:
The administrative assistance agreement in the customs area with the United States makes provision for bilateral cooperation as well as the exchange of information to prevent, investigate and detect customs violations. Because of the high volume of bilateral trade, these violations are prejudicial to Swiss and US economic interests. The draft agreement governs the procedure for submitting and executing administrative assistance requests and contains provisions on confidentiality and the use of information.
Security in the supply chain
Security in the international supply chain has been the top priority for customs authorities around the globe since the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 in the United States. The United States introduced the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) programme to ensure supply chain security. The European Union and Switzerland, for their part, established the Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) status for the same purpose. AEO status is granted to persons considered reliable in terms of international supply chain security. AEOs are granted facilitations concerning prior notifications and security-related checks of goods.
Simplification of customs clearance
There can be significant disadvantages and delays when importing goods into the United States if the goods in question do not come from a supply chain that is recognised as secure. With the mutual recognition of customs security measures (AEO/C-TPAT), Swiss AEOs could benefit from simplified customs clearance when goods are imported into the United States, or could avoid more complicated customs clearance depending on future developments. The United States is generally willing to negotiate an agreement on the mutual recognition of customs security measures with Switzerland. But that is conditional on an administrative assistance agreement. The Swiss economy was critical of an administrative assistance agreement in 2013.
However, the Federal Council believes that the conclusion of an administrative assistance agreement is in the interests of the Swiss economy in order to be able to commence negotiations on an agreement regarding the mutual recognition of customs security measures as quickly as possible.