Container Ships

Yesterday, the European Commission published a paper which looked at the U.S. mandate requiring scanning of 100 percent of the U.S. bound cargo containers. The July 1, 2012, deadline for implementation is drawing nearer, and U.S. trading partners are beginning to get engaged. The conclusion of the report – that the 100 percent mandate is the wrong course for the global supply chain – is dead-on in its assessment.

The European Commission is nervous of this mandate for the same reasons Americans should be. It’s costly-and even more so because most of the foreign ports do not have the right infrastructure in place to do this kind of blanket screening. This places an even larger burden on the private sector as it attempts to do business.

The need for such a mandate was originally couched in the idea that the supply chain, and therefore cargo containers were not secure. Yet, as I put out in a recent paper, the current risk based model for container security can and does work well to spot threats in the global supply chain. Sure, more could be done to make these efforts better and more expansive-but nothing about this approach is inherently flawed. Under the new approach, however, it will be more difficult to get goods from point A to point B-a problem which the European Commission aptly recognizes will directly affect consumers.

Concerns over the turn to 100 scanning have largely fallen on deaf ears inside the United States. Members of Congress aren’t engaged on the issue or are scared that repealing such a mandate would make them look bad on security. At the same time, trading partners are more and more frustrated over 100 percent scanning-seeing it at best as a trade impediment, and at worst, straight out protectionism.

The European Commission isn’t exactly a free market champion. But it doesn’t take a dyed-in-the-wool capitalist to realize that this mandate is bad for the global economy. The global and U.S. economies are already bleeding-why should Congress shoot another bullet?