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Exporters of air cargo, including clothing and textiles, from five Middle Eastern countries to the United States are in the process of gearing up to comply with mandatory enhanced screening imposed by the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

The order, disseminated on 22 January, requires six air carriers flying from Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to participate in the TSA’s heretofore voluntary Air Cargo Advance Screening (ACAS) programme.

This ’emergency amendment’ to ACAS requires that all cargo originating from designated points of departure in these countries be “screened and secured.”

Under ACAS, participating carriers must submit “a subset of required advance cargo data to CBP [US Customs and Border Protection] at the earliest practicable point prior to loading” of cargo destined for or transiting through the US.

Airlines and points of departures named in the order are Egypt Air operating out of Cairo International Airport; Royal Jordanian out of Queen Alia International Airport, Amman; Saudia (Saudi Arabian Airlines) out of King Abdulaziz International Airport, Jeddah, and King Khalid International Airport, Riyadh; Qatar Airways operating out of Doha International Airport; and Emirates and Etihad, coming from Dubai and Abu Dhabi airports in the UAE.

A spokesman for Royal Jordanian has said the airline was given one month’s notice of the cargo rule changes.

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By GlobalData

“These countries were chosen because of a demonstrated intent by terrorist groups to attack aviation from them,” the TSA stated on 22 January.

According to the World Bank, these countries exported more than US$2.3bn worth of textiles and apparel to the US in 2016, the bulk of this from Jordan (US$1.3bn) and Egypt (US$898m).  

David Spooner, Washington counsel for the United States Fashion Industry Association (USFIA) admitted he was unsure of the possible impact of the TSA order but pointed to minimal disruption caused by a similar measure announced last year affecting Turkey.

“There was a lot of worry that goods would be delayed,” he said. “It all worked out okay after causing much angst.”

Julia Hughes, president of the USFIA (United States Fashion Industry Association) declined to comment on the action but added: “We appreciate the TSA alerts and updates and look forward to working with TSA whenever issues arise.”