Forum editorial: U.S. toy companies on the hook
China is the maker of toys that could harm children, but major American companies are the buyers. As long as buyers and U.S. inspection agencies fail to live up to their responsibilities in the commerce equation, Americans will be at risk from im...
China is the maker of toys that could harm children, but major American companies are the buyers. As long as buyers and U.S. inspection agencies fail to live up to their responsibilities in the commerce equation, Americans will be at risk from imports from China. Recent revelations confirm that Chinese imports - toys and other products - do not come close to safety and health standards of products made in the United States.
The latest toy recall is the second for one of the world's most respected names in toys, Mattel. Its Fisher-Price division has been recognized by parents as consistently producing high-quality, appropriate toys for infants and children. Indeed, we suspect few parents knew Mattel had moved nearly all its toy manufacturing to China. Given the brand's reputation, no one would have concluded Fisher-Price was selling toys that were coated with toxic lead paint.
The toy scandal is the latest in a string of disturbing stories about Chinese imports. From tainted toothpaste to sure-to-fail tires, China has sullied its reputation as a trading partner. And make no mistake about it: China's production failures are serious globally because the rapidly growing Asian nation exports billions of dollars worth of goods, not only to the United States, but elsewhere in the developed world.
In the United States, retail giants such as Wal-Mart depend on Chinese-made goods to fill the shelves and keep prices competitive. Indeed, it's an interesting exercise to try and find a product not made in China among Wal-Mart's stock. Retailers like Wal-Mart and toymakers like Mattel/Fisher-Price have come to depend on cheap Chinese labor to make their wares attractive to American buyers. But when cheap toys mean toxic toys, no responsible parent will buy them at any price.
Responsibility for China's export problems lies all along the trade route. China certainly has to clean up its act, but the nascent mercantile culture of the emerging Chinese economy resists effective regulation. American import watchdogs clearly have failed U.S. consumers. Congress is considering tougher standards and intensified inspections. American business, apparently focused exclusively on fattening profit margins by outsourcing manufacturing to cheap-labor, no-regulation China, will be - and should be - punished by U.S. consumers. Mattel/Fisher-Price, for example, will take a hit because of the toy recalls.
Meanwhile, parents might want to think twice about buying anything for kids that was "made in China."
Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper's Editorial Board.