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Washington's import dilemma

Imports arrive in a box labeled Made in China

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Doug Krizner: The U.S. isn't the only country struggling to deal with the safety of Chinese-made products. New Zealand is investigating cases of imported children's clothing with dangerously high levels of formaldehyde. China appears to be taking safety issues seriously. The Chinese government announced a crackdown Friday on unlicensed factories and planned more random inspections. Here in the U.S., a White House task force on import safety will issue its recommendations this fall. We have more from John Dimsdale.


John Dimsdale: America's only real option to shield consumers is to beef up the screening of imports, especially from China, but that poses a dilemma for an administration that believes in the gospel of free trade.

How to inspect more of the $300 billion worth of Chinese goods that stream in every year without creating costly bottlenecks? William Reinsch, the president of the National Foreign Trade Council, envisions a nightmare scenario.

William Reinsch: If you're inspecting at the dock, for example, that means it may be sitting at the dock a long time. And then of course when things start spoiling and it's the fault of an inspection regime that takes too long, the importers start suing you because you've cost them a whole pile of money.

Reinsch says it will take a lot more government inspectors and screening facilities to catch contaminated products before they get into the country.

Costly, but worth it he says, if the extra vigilance gives Americans the confidence to buy even more imports.

In Washington, I'm John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

About the author

As head of Marketplace’s Washington, D.C. bureau, John Dimsdale provides insightful commentary on the intersection of government and money for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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