A Tough Week for Chinese Imports
This week has been a tough one for Chinese imports. Early in the week there was a recall of truck and SUV tires made in China. The tires were made without gum strips—the thingummies that keep the strips of tire together. We import more tires from China than anywhere else (32% of our imports of tires) and the recall may involve as many as one million defective tires. Thursday an import ban was placed on a number of Chinese seafood products. The products cannot be imported unless their supplier produces an independent confirmation that they are free of certain unapproved antibiotics, antifungals, and other chemicals. Much of the farm-raised seafood that we import is from China—they’re the largest producers in the world. That suggests to me that we may be looking at higher prices at the grocery store in the very near future. And we might be prudent to be on the lookout that the banned seafood doesn’t return in the form of fish powder, fish extract, or some other ingredient subject to less scrutiny.
Yesterday an import ban was placed on Chinese rice sticks and vermicelli and rice flour from Hong Kong (as well as a variety of rice products from Thailand) for “filth”, i.e. insect, bird, rodent, and animal droppings.
It’s not only the U. S. that’s concerned: the EU and Japan are also subjecting imports of food from China to closer scrutiny.
On the plus side the iPhone hit the market this week. The iPhone is manufactured by Hon Hai AKA Foxconn, a Taiwanese company that does much of its manufacturing in China.
I’m seeing an increasing number of editorials and op-eds calling for more inspection of Chinese imports or outright bans. I continue to think that this is the wrong tack. China just doesn’t have the infrastructure to carry out and enforce reliable inspections, I can’t imagine what level of government inspection would be required once the products have arrived stateside actually to ensure safety. I continue to favor country-of-origin labelling laws that, in the case of foods, drugs, nutraceuticals, toothpaste, etc. (basically, anything you or your pet put in your mouths) goes down to the ingredient level. Provide incentives.
Of course, ensuring the veracity of such labels becomes a problem in itself.