either China's State Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. International Trade Commission.
The acceptance rate of China's food exports to the United States was 99 percent, 99 percent and 99.2 percent from 2004 to 2006, respectively, whereas that of U.S. food exports to China stood at 99.01 percent, 98.85 percent and 99.09 percent, respectively, in those three years. During the same period, the acceptance rate of China's food exports to Japan and the EU amounted to 99.8 percent, 99.9 percent and 99.9 percent, respectively.
To mitigate or reduce safety threats to consumers, it is better for both parties to cool down and locate loopholes in inspection, analyze their causes and fill them.
So far, both China and the United States have failed to keep up their commodity safety inspection systems with the pace of globalized production and trade. Loopholes have appeared, which have invoked the safety woes concerning Chinese exports.
There are objective causes for loopholes in commodity safety inspection. For example, the provision of related technologies and equipment needs both time and financial input, and the training of competent personnel cannot be fulfilled overnight. Even if the manpower and financial and material resources are available, the reluctance of decision-makers to deploy them obstructs the whole system from performing well.
The Chinese Government has made great efforts for the regulatory vigilance of commodity quality. As a developing economy, China is overburdened with an arduous task of setting up a safety inspection system for so many new commodities despite an acute shortage of necessary resources. So loopholes have resulted from the objective cause to a great extent.
In contrast, problems faced by the United States in this aspect should be ascribed largely to the government's unwillingness to tackle them.
On July 11, The Financial Times (North American Edition) published an article entitled Why the West Must Regulate China's Export written by Jeffrey Garten, Juan Trippe professor of international trade and finance at the Yale School of Management and former U.S. Undersecretary of Commerce. The article says, "Washington has negotiated a raft of big trade agreements during the past quarter century, but it has not dealt with the need to upgrade regulatory vigilance. Exhibit A is the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Over the past decade the number of products it had inspected has tripled, while its budget has remained flat. Exhibit B is the Consumer Product Commission, where staff has been cut and budgets reduced by at least 10 percent over the past few years."
Professor Garten, nevertheless, did not explore how the flat budget situation had occurred along with a triple increase in the number of products and a drastic growth in the volume of inspection work. And this is precisely the very aspect U.S. leaders or managers of state affairs should mull over and improve. Did those U.S. congressmen currently appealing for various extremist and discriminatory restricting measures against Chinese commodities bar or prevent quality regulators from increasing their essential input at the beginning?
Tom Plate, a veteran U.S. journalist and a member of the Pacific Council on International Policy, has just published a new book--Confessions of an American Media Man