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Bersin to Resign Customs Post

Aguiar to serve as acting commission following expiration of term on Dec. 31.

WASHINGTON — Alan Bersin, commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which conducts seizures of counterfeit apparel and accessories entering U.S. ports and oversees container programs affecting apparel importers, announced Thursday he will resign on Dec. 30.

President Obama issued a recess appointment for Bersin in March 2010 after the Senate failed to confirm him because of Republican opposition. The recess appointment term expires on Dec. 31.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said that deputy commissioner David V. Aguilar will serve as acting commissioner of CBP and assistant commissioner for the office of field operations, Thomas Winkowski, will serve as acting deputy commissioner.

“Through innovative solutions and strengthened partnerships, we have measurably strengthened border security, enhanced our ability to prevent potential terror threats, streamlined the entry process for lawful trade and expanded our trusted traveler programs,” Bersin said in announcing his resignation.

Under his watch, CBP, in conjunction with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, increased the volume of counterfeit seizures in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 2010, the most recent year for which figures are available, by 34 percent to a total of 19,959 seizures, valued at $188.1 million.

Customs and ICE officials seized $45.7 million worth of bogus footwear, the top commodity seized in that fiscal year. Authorities seized $18.6 million worth of counterfeit apparel, giving it a ranking of third and representing 10 percent of the total value of seizures. Seizures of fake handbags, wallets and backpacks totaled $15.4 million, representing another 8 percent of the total, ranking it fourth, while, ranking ninth, seizures of jewelry were $6.7 million and accounted for 4 percent of the total.

Bersin also spearheaded a textile task force, in conjunction with Mexican Customs and the National Council of Textile Organizations, to crack down on import fraud, a growing problem threatening the domestic textile industry’s nascent recovery.

Speaking at NCTO’s annual meeting early this year, Bersin told textile executives CBP is working closely with its counterparts in Mexico to share information and also is counting on tips from the U.S. and Mexican textile and apparel firms. He said one of the biggest problems involves companies shipping Chinese denim fabric to the U.S. in bond and diverting it to Mexico, where the documentation is changed to make it appear that the fabric was made in the U.S. That allows companies to circumvent the strict NAFTA rule of origin that requires U.S., Mexican or Canadian fabric or yarns be used in making apparel to obtain duty free treatment. In-bond shipments are generally ones that enter U.S. ports, but are meant for a final destination outside the country.