In 2008, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act became law. To implement the Act’s mandate to develop targeting methods to improve consumer safety, CBP and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) have joined together to create the Import Safety Commercial Targeting and Analysis Center (CTAC), a CBP facility that, according to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, will both “centraliz[e] and strengthen federal efforts to protect U.S. consumers.” The CTAC, which will be located in Washington, D.C. and have a staff of 30, will target imports, including food, for possible safety violations. Just as with other targeting efforts, the CTAC will rely heavily on data that is provided in entry or entry summary filings and manifests. Other agencies involved in the operation of the CTAC will be the Food and Drug Administration and the Food Safety Inspection Service.
To build on these developments, on April 26, 2010, CBP and the CPSC signed a memorandum of understanding that empowers the CPSC to interact directly with importers or their agents in connection with possibly-violative shipments. Previously, CBP had always served as an intermediary for safety-related detentions and seizures. Now, the CPSC will utilize the CTAC and CBP’s automated commercial environment data-collection programs to independently target shipments, and will issue its own detention notices to stop the importation of suspect goods. The CPSC notices are to be more expansive than CBP-issued notices and provide importers with a full accounting of the reasons for detention, as well as an opportunity to submit evidence or arguments in favor of release. These responses will be reviewed by CPSC compliance investigators. CBP will remain responsible for storing detained or seized property, actually conducting seizures, and destroying or exporting non-compliant goods.
CBP has long served as an intermediary between importers and numerous federal agencies. The ever-closer cooperation between CBP and the CPSC shows that the relationship between CBP and agencies is evolving, with agencies being empowered to increasingly “call the shots” concerning the area of their expertise and regulatory mandate. Although it can be cumbersome to interact directly with numerous agencies, one can expect direct lines of communication to lead to faster decision-making with regard to issues of admissibility, and anything to speed the process will be greeted as a welcome change by the trade community.