Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Trade May Be Hazardous to Your Health?

. Wednesday, July 4, 2007

The NYT polls its readers whether they believe that recent revelations of lax enforcement by the Chinese government of basic food safety regulations means that we need a "food safety agreement with China."

The question, and the readers' responses fail to recognize two basic facts:
1. The U.S. already has a "food safety agrement" with China. It is called the Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures. This agreement gives the United States the full legal right to prohibit imports of food products that are harmful to human health. It does, however, provide some basic guidelines about how the U.S. can do so.
2. The issue is not about rules--the issue is the cost of enforcing the rules. This could be done at the border through statistically-based samples or it could be done at the place of production by having inspectors on site. The former does not require any bilateral agreement of any kind--it merely requires us to pay the cost of hiring more inspectors.

In the mean time, private industry is taking some initiative here--and no surprise as they stand to be the big losers from dangerous products.

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Trade May Be Hazardous to Your Health?
 
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