OMB mandates the use of foreign-trade system

New requirement is related to the regulation of imported goods under the Safe Ports Act of 2006.

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Amid news this summer about toxic toys and contaminated food, the Bush administration’s Import Safety Working Group saw a way to improve the safety of imported products. Within 48 hours after the group submitted its recommendations to President Bush, the Office of Management and Budget heeded those suggestions by requiring that all agencies involved in overseeing imports and exports use the International Trade Data System (ITDS) database to aid in regulating imported goods.

About 30 agencies use the system in some way. OMB’s memo with the requirements will ensure there are “no holes in the net,” said Robert Shea, OMB’s associate director for management. OMB asked agencies to submit plans for migrating to ITDS by Nov. 12 and begin entering trade data into the database by 2009. OMB will use the President’s Management Agenda score card to track agencies’ progress toward meeting the new mandate.

“For those using paper, this will be quite an exercise to use ITDS.” Tim Skud, Treasury Department

“When fully utilized, ITDS will help us reduce redundant information collections, efficiently regulate the flow of commerce and effectively enforce international trade laws,” said Clay Johnson, OMB’s deputy director for management, in the memo to agency leaders.
ITDS is part of the Automated Commerce Environment operated by the Homeland Security Department’s Customs and Border Protection agency. According to the ITDA’s Web site, it helps participating agencies produce and maintain standard data related to international trade and border regulatory and enforcement processes.

The policy memo supports the Safe Ports Act of 2006, which requires agencies to use ITDS to eliminate redundant information and improve the regulation of imported goods.

Tim Skud, the Treasury Department’s deputy assistant secretary for tax, trade and tariff policy, who leads an interagency committee that oversees the implementation of ITDS, said mandatory use of the database could increase the overall safety of imported goods. For example, when the Agriculture Department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service began using the database in 2006, it initiated 44 times more regulatory actions against food importers without increasing its budget or hiring more employees, he said.

“Agencies can access data through a secure Web portal to perform risk analysis of importers,” Skud said. “There are about 40 agencies that require some documentation, and ITDS will be that one database that captures the information.”

Skud said agencies spent about $14 million on ITDS last year. “Some agencies are more experienced in using electronic data feeds, while others still use paper,” he said. “For those using paper, this will be quite an exercise to use ITDS, and they will have to figure out how they will do business electronically.”

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