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China Trade Policy May Change

February 27, 2008

Since the “Not Made in China” site was set up a few years ago, there has been a considerable change in the discussion of the desirability of a completely free trade between the United States and China. More and more analysts, even some of those who are ideologically tied to the globalization┬áhave come to realize some of the shortcomings.

There are essentially three issues. The first is that there is not and never has been a level playing field. Chinese labor, ecological, and health regulations may or may not exist on paper, but in fact they do not exist on the factory floor. It is true that wages have been rising somewhat in China. but because of the lack of regulation, the cost of doing business in China remains very low. China has been trying to improve its air for the Olympics, but this seems to be largely a public relations issue for them. They are not really committed to cleaner air or cleaner water for the average person. The second issue is that products produced in China carry much higher risks for the American consumer than do products produced in more reliable countries. There have been a remarkable number of cases of drugs entering the legitimate trade that have not been inspected or analyzed. Toys with high levels of lead or mercury have also been sent to the United States. Our regulators simply have a greater responsibility to American consumers in these regards than they have shown so far. The third issue is human rights. The Chinese government represses its own people without any internal controls. They deny the rights to self-expression or even minimal self-government to Tibetans, Uighurs, or others. So why should we expect that they would really be concerned about the repressions by Sudan of its people. To cool outside criticism, Chinese leaders make occasional gestures to talk tough to the Sudanese etc., but one cannot expect consistency in this regard, given the way in which they treat their own people.

China is using its new-found wealth to rapidly develop a larger military machine. Is this the kind of state we want to encourage?

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