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US Customs prioritizes clearance of medical supplies

China increases quality controls on healthcare exports for fighting COVID-19.

CBP facilitates legitimate imports of COVID-19 related safety gear and medical supplies into the U.S. [Photo Credit: U.S. Customs and Border Protection]

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said it will do its part to keep imports of medical gear flowing efficiently into the country as hospitals scramble for equipment to protect their workers against COVID-19 infections.

Since President Trump’s March 13 national emergency declaration, CBP has worked closely with medical products importers to help keep hospitals supplied with protective face masks and clothing, as well as life-saving technologies.

On April 1 the agency said it set up a COVID-19 Updates and Announcements webpage which will centralize regulatory information regarding international trade of medical supplies to fight the coronavirus.

“The page will be updated regularly to reflect the most current information available,” CBP said.

Most of these cargoes are currently being rushed into the U.S. by air transportation. Ocean container loads of these products are expected to increase as the import supply line bulks up in the weeks ahead.

CBP said it is “committed to providing transparent and relevant updates and responding to incoming questions in a timely manner.”

The agency’s Pharmaceuticals, Health and Chemical Center of Excellence and Expertise has also created a COVID-19 Cargo Resolution Team to “triage incoming inquiries, coordinate with affected ports, and respond directly as appropriate.” Inquiries can be sent to this team by email at [email protected].

The agency asked that these inquiries include as much shipment information as possible, including manifest or air waybill numbers, tracking numbers, entry numbers, carrier details, cargo descriptions, and names of parties involved in the transaction.

“Assigned staff will also coordinate with the ports and other government agencies to ensure that legitimate shipments are not unnecessarily delayed,” CBP said.

China, which is recovering from its earlier COVID-19 outbreak, is expected to be the primary global source of personal protective equipment and other medical supplies in the weeks ahead.

Starting April 1, the Chinese government imposed additional quality control measures over exports of certain COVID-19-related medical supplies, such as coronavirus test kits, medical and surgical masks, surgical protective suits, ventilators, and infrared thermometers.

“On the basis of doing a good job of preventing and controlling the epidemic, the orderly export of medical supplies is an important measure to deepen international cooperation in the prevention and control of the epidemic and jointly respond to the global public health crisis,” the Chinese Ministry of Commerce said in an announcement.

Specifically, Chinese exporters of COVID-19-related medical supplies must provide authorities with an electronic declaration that their products have obtained China’s medical device product registration certificate to meet the quality standards of the importing country.

“Relevant medical material export enterprises should ensure product quality and safety, meet relevant standards and requirements, and actively support the international community in fighting the epidemic,” the Chinese Ministry of Commerce said.

Chris Gillis

Located in the Washington, D.C. area, Chris Gillis primarily reports on regulatory and legislative topics that impact cross-border trade. He joined American Shipper in 1994, shortly after graduating from Mount St. Mary’s College in Emmitsburg, Md., with a degree in international business and economics.