Imported goods from China, the reason for trade corridor, threat to health and sovereignty

Link to article here.

The primary reason for the Trans Texas Corridor, or NAFTA Superhighway, is to facilitate the free flow of goods from China into the United States. Just reading the headlines of late, consumers not only need to be wary of Chinese goods, they ought to question why U.S. taxpayers (through federally backed loans) and Texans (through gas taxes) are footing the bill to import DANGEROUS and even life-threatening cheap goods into our country. Wonder why Chinese goods are so cheap? They lace them with melamine, anti-freeze, and lead paint. Their standards cannot come close to U.S. standards. It’s well past time to re-think free trade.

Recalls are just plain bad business
By Meena Thiruvengadam
Express-News Business Writer

A “Made in China” label used to be the sign of a bargain.

That was before Tuesday, when Mattel recalled 9.6 million toys because of detachable magnets and lead paint. And it was before other massive recalls of toys, dog food, toothpaste, seafood and a slew of other household items tarnished the reputation of the world’s factory.

Now, a growing number of American consumers are looking at the “Made in China” mark as a sign of potential danger.

“To be honest, I’d rather not buy anything from China right now,” said Phillip Garcia, a Family Services Association employee who was outside the Target store on Jones Maltsberger Road near U.S. 281.

Garcia said he never used to pay much attention to where products were made.

San Antonio veterinarian Suzi Hahn also is paying more attention to the products she buys.

“Buying toothpaste at the dollar store and checking the label never would have crossed my mind,” she said outside Target. “If something’s made in China, I’ll really think about buying it now.”

Since October, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued 370 recalls, putting it on track to meet or beat the record 467 recalls issued in fiscal 2006. Of the recalls issued since October, 61 percent have been for products manufactured in China.

In January, more than 100,000 children’s necklaces made in China were recalled for high levels of lead. In May, Pier 1 Imports recalled 180,000 pieces of glassware made in China because of a threat of cuts. In June, Thomas & Friends wooden railroad toys made in China were pulled from store shelves because of high levels of lead.

“You’re bound to see an increase in the number of recalled Chinese products because China is such a huge and growing exporter to the U.S.,” said Patty Davis, a spokeswoman for the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

In 2006, China exported more than $287.8 billion to the United States, nearly triple the $102.3 billion it exported to the U.S. in 2001. In 2003, China beat Mexico to become the United States’ No. 1 import source.

Last year, about half of the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s recalls involved products made in China.

The commission is just one of many that tracks product recalls. It handles recalls for 15,000 consumer goods such as toasters, bicycles and jewelry.

The Food and Drug Administration handles recalls for canned goods, toothpaste, dog food and similar items. And the National Highway Safety Administration issued a recall this month of hundreds of thousands of Chinese-manufactured tires that lack a safety feature to prevent tread separation.

No agency was able to provide a comprehensive list of recalled products or a list of recalled products by country.

Of the 21 products recalled so far this month by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 12 were manufactured in China. Six were made in the United States, one of them in San Antonio.

There’s no clear evidence that Chinese manufactured goods are more dangerous than products made elsewhere. But there is concern that China’s ability to police itself hasn’t grown with its economic prowess.

After a visit to Beijing this month, Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt released a statement mentioning “systemic problems” related to China’s ability to ensure its seafood exports are safe.

A Chinese government survey cited on the country’s Ministry of Commerce Web site also found “problem products” among exports, but overall the Chinese government insists its products are safe.

A statement from the Chinese Ministry of Commerce estimates more than 99 percent of the country’s exports are safe. Even if that statistic is accurate, it leaves room for nearly $2.9 billion worth of potentially dangerous exports to the U.S.

“When developing nations are suddenly global suppliers, often their internal processes haven’t matured as quickly as their economic opportunities,” said Nancy Childs, a professor of food marketing at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. “When you drive things to the lowest possible price in a developing economy with minimum standards, this will happen. This pursuit and priority on lowest price does have a tipping point.”

The shift toward low-cost manufacturing in China, although most visible in the past decade, began with toys in the 1970s, said Conrad Winkler, a partner with the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton.

Now, most of the world’s toys are made in Chinese factories. Winkler doesn’t expect the recent spate of recalls will divert that business.

“The economics are pretty good for low-cost manufacturing,” he said. “I don’t think there’s going to be a major shift of all these products that are manufactured in China suddenly shifting back to be manufactured in the U.S.”

Instead, Winkler expects U.S. companies to work to develop stronger relationships with their suppliers and their suppliers’ suppliers.

“I expect more scrutiny of the processes the contracted company uses,” he said.

Now, U.S. manufacturing deals in China are handled in one of two ways. In one scenario, American companies rely on long-term relationships with suppliers. In another, suppliers make “a product to a specification and it doesn’t necessarily matter how they do it,” Winkler said.

Contractors often farm out work without always telling their clients, leading to an environment in which companies can’t always be sure of the origin of their products.

Safe or not, Utah-based Food for Health International, which sells health foods and emergency supplies, is attempting to capitalize on Americans’ fears about Chinese manufactured goods.

It recently began labeling some of its health bars “China Free.”

“My preferable message would be synthetic free, but it just doesn’t resonate with people,” said Frank Davis, the company’s president. “I have no bone to pick with China. I’m just reassuring people that our product doesn’t include ingredients made in China.”

Davis isn’t pulling China-made components from other, nonfood products he sells. One of them, an emergency kit sold in Arizona Costco stores, contains Chinese-made tools, radios and pots.

“I believe you can get top-quality stuff out of China,” he said. “The problem is with contracting and subcontracting.”