The Canada Border Services Agency quietly used the summer snooze period to quietly float a transformation of client outreach to importers that were paying attention. In its Customs Notice 13-017, it notified the importing community of its “streamlining efforts” that will eliminate traditional client outreach services (walk-in counter service, seminars, information sessions/workshops, trade show participation) in all but four regions. Trade services (e.g., advance rulings, national customs rulings, trade incentives programs, drawback remissions and voluntary disclosures, as well as compliance verifications) will continue to be provided in only four regions. Commencing April 1, 2013, all of the noted services will be provided only in the following regions: Quebec, Greater Toronto Area, Prairie and Pacific. The Atlantic and Northern Ontario regions no longer provide trade services.

Of course, importers are invited to use the CBSA web site and telephone services for “timely” responses. The CBSA is looking at enhancing its web site and developing self-service tools to provide consistent, accurate and up-to-date information 24/7.

Time will tell, but reducing the personal touch could force many Canadian importers to become more self-reliant, which in turn means ramping up internal compliance skills or becoming reliant on their professional customs compliance advisors. Presumably that is also part of the plan.