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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and International Trade: Legal Issues

Brandon J. Murrill
Legislative Attorney

Most consumer products within the jurisdiction of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) are imported into the United States. The CPSC is the central, federal authority for the promotion and enforcement of consumer product safety. In 2008, following several well-publicized national recalls of toys and children’s products, many of which contained lead, Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), which included provisions addressing the CPSC’s role in ensuring the safety of imported and exported consumer products.

With regard to import safety, the CPSC acts in coordination with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Department of Homeland Security, to evaluate the safety of consumer products offered for import into U.S. customs territory. Working together with CBP, the CPSC attempts to identify shipments that are likely to contain consumer products which violate import provisions that the agency enforces. The CPSC also determines whether to admit certain consumer products offered for import into U.S. customs territory. Importers of products manufactured outside of the United States must certify that finished products comply with all rules, bans, standards, or regulations applicable to the product under any act enforced by the CPSC.

The export of consumer products from the United States to foreign countries may also be subject to regulation by the CPSC. In the CPSIA, Congress provided that, among other things, the CPSC may prohibit the export from the United States for the purpose of sale any consumer product that violates a safety rule under the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA) unless the importing country informs the CPSC that it accepts the importation of the consumer product.

In addition to domestic laws pertaining to the CPSC’s regulation of the import and export of consumer products, the United States has also agreed to undertake certain international obligations with respect to the promulgation of standards-related measures (e.g., product safety regulations) by its central government bodies, including the CPSC. These obligations are found in several international agreements to which the United States is party, including the multilateral World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT Agreement), as well as bilateral and regional U.S. free trade agreements (FTAs). Among other things, the TBT Agreement establishes rules pertaining to the promulgation of technical regulations by central government bodies like the CPSC, including rules concerning nondiscrimination, transparency, and reliance on international standards as a basis for regulations. U.S. FTAs also contain additional obligations for certain parties with regard to transparency. Standards-related trade obligations have been implemented in U.S. law, particularly in the Trade Agreements Act of 1979.

In the 113
th Congress, H.R. 1910, the Foreign Manufacturers Legal Accountability Act of 2013, would require the Chairman of the CPSC to mandate that certain foreign manufacturers and producers of consumer products distributed in commerce establish a registered agent in the United States to accept service of process on behalf of such manufacturer or producer for the purpose of any state or federal regulatory proceeding or civil action related to the product.

Date of Report: November 5, 2013
Number of Pages: 20
Order Number: R43297
Price: $29.95

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