By  on October 30, 2008

WASHINGTON — The federal government is launching a pilot program to help importers meet more stringent consumer product safety standards.

The initiative is being established to help address new mandates included in the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act that Congress passed and President Bush signed this year. It expands an existing collaboration between the government and importers on supply chain security.

The first test partner in the program will be J.C. Penney Co. Inc., which was picked because of its top-notch internal security process, W. Ralph Basham, U.S. Customs and Border Protection commissioner, said Wednesday. The agency will run the initiative with the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The legislation set up a broad range of new rules, including a general certification requirement for importers to show compliance with product safety standards. The rules go into effect Nov. 12. The pilot program will help the commission determine how it can streamline the safety declaration process by using existing Customs electronic systems when an item enters the country, said Nancy Nord, acting commission chairwoman.

Initially, the program will only be open to a limited number of companies that already participate in Customs’ self-assessment program. The federal agencies will assess the commitment of company management, internal product safety reviews, the verification of product safety rules throughout the supply chain and other requirements in determining eligibility.

Once a company is accepted, it should benefit from reduced safety inspections and front-of-the-line access if a product it is importing is selected for testing. Nord and Basham said the program will help to target their limited resources to minimize disruptions to trade.

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