Importer Self-Assessment Product Safety Pilot

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) issued a General Notice in the Federal Register on October 29, 2008, announcing the Importer Self-Assessment-Product Safety Pilot (ISAPS). Applications for this voluntary partnership with both CBP and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) are being accepted from importers who are ISA participants. From the applications received, CBP will designate a limited number of importers to participate in the pilot program. CBP and CPSC are expected to review the ISA-PS pilot two years after its effective date to measure its effects and achievements, and to determine whether it will become a permanent program.

Goals of ISA-PS

The ISA-PS partnership will strive to prevent unsafe imports into the United States by maintaining a high level of product safety compliance and achieving the goals of the Interagency Working Group on Import Safety, established by President George W. Bush on July 18, 2007. The Interagency Working Group, comprised of several government agencies, issued a Strategic Framework on September 10, 2007, that outlined an approach that could build upon existing efforts to improve the safety of imported products.

The Working Group subsequently issued an Action Plan for Import Safety on November 6, 2007. This Action Plan contained various recommendations and specific action steps for the government agencies to take in combating unsafe imports. CBP’s action steps included harmonizing government procedures regarding imports, creating an automated system reflecting a “single window” concept, and actively establishing good importer practices for foreign collaboration, capacity building and developing voluntary certification programs. The ISA-PS is intended to further the goals of the Working Group’s Strategic Framework and Action Plan.

ISA-PS Application Process

As described in further detail in the Federal Register Notice, active ISA members are welcome to apply for participation in ISA-PS by completing a questionnaire and signing the ISA-PS/CPSC Addendum. Importers who apply for the program must maintain an internal control system that ensures the integrity of product safety. CBP and CPSC will verify whether companies have adequate controls and processes in place to ensure product safety at all points in the product life-cycle and to comply with the mandatory standards set out by the agencies. Decisions on acceptance into the ISA-PS will be made mutually by CBP and CPSC.

Anticipated ISA-PS Benefits

Importers who are accepted into the ISA-PS will be eligible for the following benefits from CPSC: (1) product-specific point of contact to provide National Electronic Injury Surveillance System Product Codes (NEISS) for entry lines; (2) access to training on product safety compliance, internal controls and CPSC audit trails; (3) ability to apply for external participation coverage of multiple business units (multiple importer of record numbers); (4) potential expansion of benefits to all products of approved participants if entry lines contain all applicable NEISS product codes; (5) reduction of product safety tests on goods; (6) priority “front of the line testing” by laboratories, if products are tested; (7) potential for destruction of product in lieu of requesting redelivery to CBP; and (8) acknowledgment of participation of ISA-PS in CPSC’s “Fast-Track Product Recall Program.” Additional benefits tailored to specific industries may later become available as well.

Importers who are currently ISA members are encouraged to review the ISA-PS application process and stated benefits in detail to determine whether the program would be beneficial to them, and whether the benefits merit the additional responsibilities associated with participation in the program and the increased scrutiny by these agencies of the importer’s internal product safety processes.

Also, the CPSC is publishing regular updates on its website regarding the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008. Most recently, the CPSC posted a Sample General Certification of Conformity and FAQs on the certification process, which provides that electronic certifications will be accepted for imported products subject to the certification requirements. See http://www.cpsc.gov/about/cpsia/faq/elecertfaq.pdf. This will enable importers to post the newly required general conformity certifications, which confirm the company’s compliance with applicable CPSC conformity and testing requirements, via a World Wide Web URL or other electronic means.

Update on Uniform Rules of Origin for Imported Merchandise

CBP has announced the extension of the comment period, through December 1, 2008, with respect to its proposal to establish uniform rules governing CBP determinations on the country of origin of imported merchandise. In a Federal Register Notice dated October 30, 2008, CBP states that it will extend the comment period in order to allow the trade community the opportunity to review the country of origin rule changes in light of the technical corrections to 19 C.F.R. §§ 102.20 and 102.21, which were made to align the regulations with the current version of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS). Modifications to the HTSUS in 2007 created new provisions, removed other provisions, and moved goods between provisions. However, until now, the tariff shift rules were not updated to reflect the HTSUS changes. These technical corrections are published in another Federal Register Notice, also issued on October 30, 2008.

We encourage importers to review closely the rules set out in 19 C.F.R. §§ 102.20 and 102.21 to determine how their products will be affected by application of the tariff shift approach to determine country of origin and to submit comments to CBP, as necessary.