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NCBFAA Tells FDA Revamp “U.S. Agent” Process Before Imposing Fees
Washington, DC: In comments to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America, Inc. (NCBFAA) President Jeffrey Coppersmith called on the FDA to revise the process for designating a U.S. agent before implementing foreign facility reinspection fees under the Food Safety Modernization Act. U.S. agents designated under FDA’s current process, which was developed under the Bioterrorist Act, serve for the limited purpose of notification.
“Many customs brokers have knowingly agreed to be designated as a U.S. agent for this limited purpose,” according to President Coppersmith. “Still others are designated as an agent by the foreign entity without the knowledge of the customs broker.”
If the FDA now enlarges the role of the FDA agent, the NCBFAA warns that there must be significant changes to the agent designation process to avoid having “an ‘agent’ sign up for one very limited task and…instead [be] held accountable for potentially open-ended liability.” These changes include:
- Notify all existing BTA agents of the list of foreign entities who have designated them as a U.S. agent.
- Allow them to confirm their acceptance of the responsibility or opt out.
- In the alternative, start over with a new, more rigorous system for BTA registration.
- Notify foreign facilities if an agent opts out.
- Maintain a Web-enabled Master List of Agents for automated query by involved parties.
The NCBFAA further cautioned that, because many BTA agents will not accept the open ended liability associated with this measure, it “has the potential to create serious disruptions to the food import process, as food shipments arriving at the border with deficient foreign facility registrations (because the agent has suddenly "resigned") will be inadmissible.”
President Coppersmith noted that the details of the process for fee billing/collection are critical and must be identified at the outset. He further insisted that the BTA agent designation must not be extended to other sections of the FSMA where the term "U.S. agent" or "U.S. representative" is used; instead FDA regulation should require presentation of an affirmative statement of representation signed by both parties be filed with FDA or a similar transparent process whereby the agent explicitly accepts this specific role for the purpose of FDA food importations.
“The responsibilities of being a U.S. agent for a foreign food supplier are significant,” President Coppersmith wrote, “and no one should have that responsibility forced on them by virtue of their presence in the supply chain.”
Headquartered in Washington, DC, the NCBFAA represents nearly 800 member companies with 100,000 employees in international trade - the nation's leading freight forwarders, customs brokers, ocean transportation intermediaries (OTIs), NVOCCs and air cargo agents, serving more than 250,000 importers and exporters. Established in 1897 in New York, NCBFAA is the effective national voice of the industry. Through its various committees, counsel and representatives, the Association maintains a close watch over legislative and regulatory issues that affect its members. It keeps them informed of these and other related issues through its weekly Monday Morning eBriefing, and various meetings and conferences throughout the year.
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