In Response To Import Safety Report, Brown Calls On Administration To Fix U.S. Trade Policy
In response to the President's Interagency Working Group on Import Safety, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today called on the administration to fix U.S. trade policy which he said facilitates the influx of unsafe food and products.
Tainted imports from China and other countries have, in recent months, led to the recalls of hundreds of thousands of toys, tires, food products, and pet food products. The administration is proposing trade agreements with countries such as Peru and Panama, who already have been cited for food safety concerns.
"As dangerous as the toys coming out of China are, the problem does not stop there," Brown said. "The real threat is our failed trade policy that limits safety standards and sends jobs overseas. It is time for a new direction."
To address the current import safety crisis, Brown has proposed that the U.S. Government:
1.) Review and fix existing trade deals that limit the ability of safety agencies to inspect imported food and products.
2.) Require importers of record to post a safety bond to ensure accountability for recalls and defective products.
3.) Give authority to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to examine and approve the regulatory systems of our trading partners as meeting U.S. safety standards before imports from a country can enter the U.S. market, and ensure that CPSC has the adequate authority to effectively halt imports.
4.) Place food and product safety inspectors in every U.S. embassy to increase cooperation with foreign regulatory authorities to improve their abilities to regulate and enforce safety standards.
5.) Implement country-of-origin labeling (COOL) on meat, fruits and vegetables and require COOL on processed foods and ingredients.
6.) Authorize FDA mandatory recall authority.
7.) Improve the collection, analysis, sharing and delivery of all pertinent import information with respect to all relevant sources.
8.) Impose meaningful civil penalties for violators.
"Everyone agrees on one thing: We want more trade with countries around the world," Brown said. "But we must protect the safety and health of our children and our families first."
Below is a copy of a Floor Speech delivered today by Senator Brown on Imported Food and Product Safety:
Mr. President, last week Mattel, the maker of Barbie, Elmo, and Barney toys, issued its third recall of tainted products from China in the last month. Toothpaste, tires, and toys - when made in China' becomes a warning label, something's very wrong.
Our trade policy should prevent these problems - not invite them. Clearly, our trade policy has failed. Yet, anyone who disagrees with America's trade experts is labeled a protectionist. As if that's a bad word.
It is not only our moral obligation to protect our communities, our families, and our children from contaminated - possibly deadly products - as members of Congress it's our duty. Last year, the United States imported from China $288 billion in goods - much of it food, toys, vitamins, and dog food. Not only is China weak in unenforced health and safety regulations, as The Washington Post revealed recently, it aggressively foists on vulnerable nations contaminated food and products. China sends Formaldehyde-laced children's candy, mercury-laced makeup, and fungus-infested dried fruits to Indonesia, Malaysia, and Hong Kong - nations largely reliant upon the Communist China for trade and for aid.
Our country has worked hard to build safe working places, a reliable healthy food supply and pure drinking water. For one hundred years, workers and community leaders, elected officials and advocates, took on some of the world's most powerful corporations to make our food and products safer.
Unrestricted, unregulated free trade with China threatens these gains and jeopardizes our public health. As of now, there is little interest among the Chinese in changing the way we and they do business. Our trade deficit with China topped $800 billion last year.
As the saying goes - if it ain't broke, why fix it? Clearly our trade policy is working - working for China. So what is to be done?
Since the Chinese Communist forbids third party inspectors on Chinese soil - we either buy less - much less - from China, or we hold importers responsible for the safety of the products they bring into the country. We must also increase the number of food and product inspectors. Today, less than one percent of all imported vegetables, fruits, seafood, and grains are inspected at the border. Less than one percent.
Mattel is to be commended for taking the proactive step of an internal investigation and recall of products. But such action should be the rarity, not the norm. Which is why we cannot, in our nation's best interest, focus solely on consumer threats from China. The real threat is our failed trade policy that allows recall after recall. The real threat is our failure to change course and craft a new trade policy. The real threat is this administration's insistence on more of the same.
More trade pacts that send U.S. jobs overseas. More trade pacts that allow companies - and countries - to ignore the rules of fair trade. More trade pacts that will lead to more recalls.
The administration, and it's free trade supporters in Congress, are gearing up for another trade fight. They want to force on our nation - a nation that in November demanded change - trade agreements with Peru, Panama, Colombia, and North Korea - all based on the same failed trade model. FDA inspectors have rejected seafood imports from Peru and Panama - major seafood suppliers to the U.S. And yet, the current trade agreements - as written - limit food safety standards and border inspections. Adding insult to injury, the agreements would force the U.S. to rely on foreign inspectors to ensure our safety.
We've seen how well THAT worked with China. More of the same in our trade policy will mean exactly that - more contaminated imports and more recalls. It is time for a new direction in our nation's trade policy. It is time for trade policy that ensures the safety of food on our kitchen tables and toys in our children's bedrooms.
Everyone agrees on one thing: We want more trade with countries around the world. But we must protect the safety and health of our children and our families first.