The United States currently imports approximately $2 trillion of goods from 825,000 offshore companies. As noted here at MassTortDefense, the safety of numerous of those products has been challenged recently, with recalls and litigation. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has recently announced the expansion of a program designed to enhance the safety of such imports. Specifically, the U.S. will expand its Importer Self Assessment program to include the Importer Self Assessment Product Safety Pilot program. The ISA-PS is a partnership that will be created among CBP, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and importers, which will strive to maintain a high level of product safety compliance, and to achieve the goals of the federal government’s Interagency Working Group on Import Safety by working collaboratively to prevent unsafe imports.

The ISA program is a partnership program that recruits highly compliant trade companies in order to reduce both CBP and company resources required during entry and post entry, and to build cooperative relationships that strengthen company compliance with trade laws. The ISA program is based on the premise that importers with strong internal controls achieve the highest level of compliance with CBP laws and regulations, and provides a means to recognize and support importers that have implemented such systems. Since the ISA program started in 2002, over 172 importers under 760 different Importer of Record numbers have been approved to participate in the program. In fiscal year 2007, merchandise imported by ISA participants made up 15% of the total value imported into the U.S., and the compliance rate for those importers was 99.4%, the CBP reported.

Now, as a voluntary pilot program, ISA has been open to qualified importers on safety issues, offering less oversight to trade-compliant companies in exchange for those companies assuming extra responsibility for managing their own product safety compliance in accordance with strict requirements. CBP and the CPSC staff have developed a list of best practices to ensure compliance with CPSC’s current regulations.

Within the realm of their respective authorities, CBP and CPSC will verify that companies have adequate controls and processes in place to ensure product safety at all points in the product life-cycle of imported products and to comply with these mandatory standards. CPSC staff and CBP have worked to develop CPSC-based benefits to encourage participation in this expanded pilot program. Acceptance into the program is by mutual agreement of CPSC and CBP.

The agencies will review the pilot program after two years to determine whether to implement a permanent version.