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AES Direct, True Innovation in Export Automation or something else?

By       Message Curtis Griffith     Permalink
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The AES Direct (Automated Export System), a required online method for filing an export shipment was implemented 3+ years ago. The online automated system is managed as part of the Foreign Trade Statistics (Your Key to Trade), under the U.S. Census Bureau. Prior to this implementation of this automated system, most U.S. exporters filled out and issued an SED (Shippers Export Declaration) with the customs papers.  

It isn't important to go into the fine details of this new system. The high level details create more concern for our exporting company.

At start up, the current system and the training leaned toward controlling what products were being exported, final destination and ultimate consignee/receiver. Certain items were not allowed export to countries where uprisings, civil wars and other atrocities were taking place. It didn't seem far from the SED format, expect it was online and data specific.

The intensity of the amount of data being collected was concerning for our company.

We didn't see a problem, as long as the collected data was only being used by the U.S. Government in reporting trade deficit totals. If the data became available to a world market, they now knew what U.S. city the goods were manufactured in. The items are so clearly defined that a potential foreign competitor could identify what we are making, how much, exact destination and the prices we charge for the items.

Think about it, if your company makes a very specific product, a potential competitor could take one look at the data, point of manufacture, your company and just about come up with a marketing plan to knock you off your pedestal.  

After two years of this system being operation, an email came out of the AES offering this data for a price. The data that was so important to our home land security, controlling items we want to keep away from bad boy counties is now for sell.

My opinion is the system was automated for a several reasons.

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  • The data was being hand entered by U.S. export customs as with everything they do, was trash on trash and not reliable.
  • Foreign Trade Statistics would be accurate if they forced the entry back on the exporter, threatened them with fines or shutdowns for errors, assuring the data would be more accurate, reliable and usable by someone other than the exporter.
  • Emerging markets are fueled by growth and the fear of a slow down scared them so they had to get data and find more products being made at high U.S. labor cost.
  • The U.S. still has an attractive export dollar value and they want that revenue and growth.
  • The U.S. Census Bureau has forced U.S. companies to spend our money entering the data correctly and for pennies, have sold the data to our future competition.
  • Some of this competition is sitting right here in the U.S. taking the data and coming up with a plan to take that manufacturing off shore.


There was a global email sent out the mentioned the name of the internet site developer and though I have not confirmed this, the trail did lead to company in Montreal, Canada, owned by a French Corporation. This concerned me three years ago. The whole system reminded me of the Quality Assurance program that took the world by storm in the 1990's. Many U.S. manufacturers found themselves either signing up and becoming certified at a huge expense or banned from qquoting or selling services and products on a global scale. With the Asion market what it is today, that quality system isn't quite as stronge but still remains a world player. Now we have the AES and yes, I had to be tested and certified to use it. I can go to seminars if I want to be a better user, but we have not failed a shipment approval. 

They charge you for these seminars and they are NOT cheap. Speakers and special guest range from retired U.S. Customs officials to retired U.S. Consulate workers that have now returned from China and other Asian countries.  

Are they all doing this for love of country? Are they all doing it for the interest of the U.S. labor force? Are they selling us down the river?

You be the judge and do your own research. Maybe I have smoke and mirrors in my eyes.

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I'm a 54 year old Production Manager for a small company that exports products around the globe and father of one child in college, on their way to becoming an English major. I believe we are choking the life out of companies with new us.gov (more...)

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AES Direct, True Innovation in Export Automation or something else?