Importers as Regulators: Product Safety in a Globalized World
Import Safety: Regulatory Governance in the Global Economy, Ed. Cary Coglianese & Adam Finkel, Penn. Press, 2010
32 Pages Posted: 16 Nov 2012
Date Written: 2010
In the wake of scandals involving lead toys, toxic toothpaste, poisonous pet food, and other dangerous products in recent years, policymakers have proposed a variety of strategies that purport to address safety concerns. Though many of these proposals would have salutary effects on consumer product safety, they do not provide, either individually or collectively, a full solution to the problem. This chapter offers a different proposal for addressing the challenges that global production poses for state-centered regulation of import safety. We argue that regulators should structure administrative penalties to make private importers regulate the foreign manufacturing processes from which they benefit.
Specifically, we make the case that where U.S. regulators expect a threat to consumer protection from foreign goods and services, they should augment the legal penalties imposed against foreign and domestic partners in international trade that are within the reach of American authorities. This enhanced threat of legal liability would serve to ensure that these parties act as de facto regulators of the foreign activity from which they benefit, even when those activities themselves are beyond the reach of American law. Trade in domestic goods and services would not trigger the same penalties because these products face regulation of the production process that, in principle, achieves the desired level of safety.
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