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American Shipper

U.S. applies ISA program to import safety

U.S. applies ISA program to import safety

In an effort to better ensure safety of imported merchandise and foodstuffs, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Wednesday it would begin a trial program to expand its Importer Self-Assessment Program to include product safety.

   The ISA program gives vetted importers with strong internal controls the responsibility to self-police compliance with trade regulations in return for fewer Customs audits. More than 172 importers have earned their way into the program since it started in 2002. According to CBP, ISA companies demonstrate the highest rate of compliance among all importer groups. Merchandise imported by ISA members accounts for 15 percent of the total imported value and the compliance rate for ISA importers was 99.4 percent last year.

   The new ISA component is designed to encourage companies to maintain a high-level of compliance with product safety laws and standards.

   It comes in response to a rash of recalls and other discoveries of unsafe products from several countries last year that led a presidential study group and Congress to recommend measures for tighter monitoring and enforcement of safety standards in imported products. An interagency working group is trying to coordinate efforts across the federal government to improve safety oversight.

   The ISA-Product Safety pilot will be conducted in conjunction with the Consumer Product Safety Commission and volunteer importers. Existing ISA members can immediately apply for the product safety program and the two agencies will select a limited number of companies to participate.    Companies will be expected to follow a series of best practices compiled by the government. CBP and the Consumer Product Safety Commission will verify through on-site domestic visits that companies have adequate rules and processes in place to ensure product safety throughout the supply chain. Foreign site visits may also be scheduled at the discretion of regulators.

   As an incentive, the commission will extend benefits to companies that join the program. These include:

   ' A product-specific point of contact who can assist in providing product codes of recalled products for inclusion on customs entries.

   ' Specialized training on product safety compliance, internal controls and agency audit procedures.

   ' Allowing companies to extend ISA coverage to multiple business units.

   ' Fewer product safety tests on goods.

   ' Granting “front of the line” privileges at CPSC laboratories to ISA-PS participants when product safety testing is necessary.

   ' Allowing products to be destroyed instead of requesting redelivery of faulty goods to CBP.

   ' Automatic enrollment in CSPC’s Fast-Track Product Safety Recall Program.

   Additional industry-specific benefits may be added in the future.

   CBP and the CSPC will review the pilot program after two years and determine whether it should become permanent.

   To read the government’s notice in the Federal Register, go to edocket.access.gpo.gov/2008/pdf/E8-25551.pdf.

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