Chinese Plants to Welcome US Inspectors

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 12/13/2007 02:17:00 AM
It's a shame this news story hasn't received much if any coverage while the third Strategic Economic Dialogue is underway in Beijing: Given rising doubts over the safety of Chinese food and drug exports (and much else besides), PRC authorities have made moves to allow US inspectors to come over. In return, American immigration authorities will make it easier for Chinese tour groups to visit America. It sounds like a fair bargain to me. Likely, this story has escaped attention for regular news media is more interested in sensationalizing the dangers of Chinese products and less in relaying efforts to reduce potential dangers. Oh well. The US and China have been locked in a prolonged tit-for-tat over product safety that has become increasingly contentious. Allowing inspectors into China is strategically sensible on the part of the Party faithful: If American inspectors are given the opportunity to assess the quality of Chinese exports, there is less room to bicker if things go awry ex post facto. Address problems at the source the source. From the Financial Times:

US inspectors will be allowed into China to monitor the quality standards of Chinese food and drugs exports under the terms of agreements negotiated in the wake of the product safety scandals that have damaged China’s “national image”.

In return, under a series of bilateral agreements, the US will allow Chinese tour groups easier access to the US. Tourism visas to the US are, at present, difficult to obtain for Chinese and the move is likely to lead to a sharp jump in the number of tourists to the US.

The ministerial-level negotiations in Beijing on Tuesday got off to a testy start, with Wu Yi, a vice-premier, complaining that exaggerated US reports about shoddy and unsafe Chinese products had tarnished China. “The US media hyped about the ­quality of Chinese exports, causing serious damage to China’s national image,” she said.

In spite of its annoyance, China acceded to Washington’s demands to allow US officials to go to factories in China to check whether goods for export meet US quality standards.

The talks in Beijing, part of a regular exchange on trade disputes, will be followed by a two-day meeting of ministers, led by Ms Wu and Hank Paulson, the US Treasury secretary, who will also press the product safety issue...

Mike Leavitt, the US secretary of health and human services, said the agreements on standards for drugs, medical devices, food and animal feed showed the two sides were trying to “bridge” different regulatory systems. But he said Washington would enforce its standards, exacting “higher penalties” on exporters who breached US standards. “The most severe penalty, and the swiftest penalty, is to be eliminated from access to American consumers,” he said.

The talks, initiated by Mr Paulson, are designed to take a more strategic view ­of the relationship, freed of the often tense haggling that characterises trade discussions. Sino-US relations remain bedevilled by numerous issues, most recently the issue of product safety but, more fundamentally, by Washington’s complaints that Beijing uses a range of policies to favour local industries and exporters.