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U.S. Congress blocks Abu Dhabi pre-clearance

WASHINGTON, DC: The U.S. House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee has approved legislation to authorize U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CPB) to conduct pre-clearance activities in foreign countries.

Candice MillerBorder and Maritime Security Subcommittee chairman Candice Miller (right) said the proposed Act also clarifies the border, maritime and transportation security missions of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for the first time since it was created in 2002:

"CBP is responsible for securing and protecting our borders, an extraordinary undertaking critical to our national security. Despite its vital mission, however, it has been operating without the statutory authorization necessary to support and define its operations since it was transferred to the Department of Homeland Security in 2002.

"Today, the House moved another step closer to codifying its important mission with the full Committee's adoption of my authorizing legislation. This bill is essential to ensuring that CBP has the Congressional and legal backing it needs to protect its tandem mission of trade facilitation and border security," she added.

The committee also passed a complementary Act that sets the conditions under which DHS may establish pre-clearance facilities, conduct preclearance operations and provide Customs services outside the U.S.

The measure is intended to block the opening of a CBP pre-clearance facility at Abu Dhabi in order to avoid giving Etihad a competitive advantage over U.S. airlines. Currently it is the only carrier that operates direct flights between the UAE emirate and U.S. points.

Nicholas Calio, president and CEO of U.S. airline trade association A4A commented: "Restoring Congressional oversight to the CBP process will help to improve the throughput of passengers and cargo, while further enhancing the overall travel experience for the customers we serve."

The bill creates a number of notifications and certifications CBP must make to Congress before establishing pre-clearance facilities at new locations. Notably, any new location must be served by U.S. carriers and CBP would be required to consult with stakeholders, including airlines, prior to entering into an agreement with a foreign government.

The House Committee on Homeland Security has sole jurisdiction over all Transportation Security Administration (TSA) security matters, including the security of passengers and cargo within the U.S. aviation system.

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