Interagency Import Safety Conference Keynote Remarks - Thursday October 21, 2010, Washington Dulles Marriot, Dulles, Va.

October 21, 2010

Good morning. Congressman Issa, thank you so much for your opening remarks and for your leadership in the Congress and to your constituents in California.

 

I also want to recognize the Department of Homeland Security and the leading role they have played in bringing us together today and helping us fulfill our missions.

 

Commissioner Bersin and Commissioner Hamburg, I am so pleased to be joining you as a co-host of today's conference. This conference has the potential to unify the federal government around a common pursuit in which the public wants us to be engaged.

 

If we can work collectively to keep dangerous, substandard, and violative goods out the hands of consumers, then I believe we can restore the public's confidence in government and their belief that government works for the people.

 

I am honored to be here today with the leaders of so many great agencies, and I am optimistic about what we can achieve today. My optimism is based upon the positive change that we have created at CPSC through our close partnerships with CBP.

 

Alan and I have worked closely this year and our agencies are working closer than ever before. In California, we are seizing dangerous toys; in Washington state, violative fireworks; and in Texas, violative youth all-terrain vehicles.

 

In April, Alan and I signed a MOU that gave CPSC access to the new Commercial Targeting and Analysis Center or "CTAC" facility in Washington. That was a breakthrough moment for CPSC, because it gave us access to valuable new sources of data, allowing us to strengthen our import surveillance program.

 

It was less than three years ago that CPSC first began collocating investigators alongside CBP inspectors at major ports. I am pleased to share with all of you that we set an all-time CPSC record in the just completed fiscal year 2010 for the number of different, imported products sampled. We also set a record for the number of violative products detected.

 

Last year, we collected nearly 1800 samples and determined that more than 55 percent were violative or dangerous to consumers. We keep adding new tools and technologies to our import safety strategy, which has helped us sort through more products at the ports without needing to send them to our laboratory.

 

Our success in screening means that our chemists and other scientists can spend more time on riskier products.

 

The nearly 1000 products we stopped from reaching the market last year were more than the total number of import samples we used to collect in the years before we joined CBP at the ports.

 

Indeed, we are making progress. In FY 2010, CPSC blocked nearly twice as many products at the port as we did in FY 2008. And in FY 2010, the number of imported products we recalled was about 25 percent lower than FY 2008.

 

After suffering through the Year of the Recall in 2007, this is good news for CPSC and for families. Recalls of products made in China have declined for two years running, after steadily increasing for eight years straight prior to 2008.

 

I am headed to Shanghai this weekend to continue working with the Chinese government and the European Commission to go beyond standards and build safety into product design and manufacturing.

 

I believe the investment we have made in our import surveillance program has resulted in a real boon to consumers and our image. As we all know, seizing - instead of recalling - Chinese products helps us drive our own message and reduces the number of questions many of us face from the press and Congress after a major recall.

 

Throughout the conference today, we will delve into CTAC and ACE, the importer self assessment program, CBP operated laboratories, and collocation of staff. I am proud to say that CPSC is working with CBP on each of these programs and initiatives, and the collaboration is making us a better agency.

 

Now one area on which we plan to work this year, an area in which FDA already has experience, is undertaking a risk management approach to assessing when and which products to detain and sample.

 

We all have our limitations with resources so we need to be efficient in deciding when to sample. Achieving a high effectiveness rate of sampling products that are found to be violative will help prevent congestion at the border and facilitate importation of cargo posing little risk.

 

I look forward to speaking with many of you about how to use risk assessment to improve efficiencies, promote consumer safety, and avoid unnecessary interference with trade.

 

Our staffs have worked many months to bring us all together, and they have formulated six core principles to unite us. The principles including supporting:

 

the institution of a permanent, interagency forum dedicated to import safety cooperation;

 

full collaboration and information sharing among import safety partners wherever possible;

 

efforts to help the private sector comply with import safety requirements;

 

the continued development and use of common systems;

 

strong, consistent enforcement measures to deter imports of unsafe products; and

 

the use of risk-management strategies to focus import surveillance and streamline entries where appropriate.

 

I'm pleased to join nine outstanding public servants and leaders in signing on to these principles on behalf of CPSC.

 

The CPSC is a small agency with an enormous mission. We oversee thousands of consumer products. Partnerships are vital to our success.

 

CPSC has strong established partnerships with CBP, FDA, ATF, EPA, and NHTSA. I look forward to working with all of the other agencies represented at this conference, because cooperation is key. I believe that we must work collectively, because the safety of those we serve is at stake.

 

A key reason that CPSC is so committed to this effort is that it is tied to our brand new strategic plan. The aim of the strategic plan is to drive CPSC to be a more proactive regulatory agency.

 

Investing in import safety and demonstrating that we are keeping dangerous products from reaching store shelves is a proven pathway to increasing our profile as a proactive agency.

 

The numbers from the Commerce Department clearly show that the tide of imports from China has scarcely slowed down, despite the frustrations expressed by consumers. Therefore, we must remain vigilant at the ports.

 

With tighter budgets ahead for all of us, vigilance is best achieved through information sharing, capacity building, and the promotion of best practices in manufacturing and exports in Asian markets.

 

The cooperative agreements we will sign later today are a pledge to those we serve here at home as well as a signal to foreign manufacturers that doing business in the United States means following our import rules.

 

Thank you to all of the agencies represented here today for making this conference a priority. I trust that by the end of today's sessions, we will see this conference as just the beginning of our enterprise. There is much work still to be done to align all of our interests. However, if we hold true to our six core principles, the payoff for the American consumer will be great.

 

It is now my pleasure to introduce my colleague Alan Bersin, Commissioner of CBP.