Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch has just released a report entitled “Santa’s Sweatshop: Made in D.C. with Bad Trade Policy” which documents in great detail how the push by U.S. corporations to send production overseas has led to a crisis in toy safety.
Despite all the news stories about toddlers chewing the lead paint on Thomas the Train, eating toxin-saturated wax lips, and sustaining injuries from exploding and lacerating toy parts, the report notes, precious little attention has been paid to how this all came about. Deadly toys are largely the result of U.S. companies moving production to countries with little or no safety standards.
In the last five years, there has been a 224 percent jump in recalls of dangerous toys in the United States. Almost all of these toys were produced overseas. China alone accounts for 94 percent of the recalls.
Among the report's findings: "Lead paint and other raw materials are being used increasingly in part because of U.S. companies’ efforts to procure sweatshop goods from China at the same low prices even as Chinese wages continue to slowly increase."
"The toy import safety crisis did not happen over night, and it did not come out of nowhere,” says Global Trade Watch's Lori Wallach. “But Congress -- and a future president -- can turn the situation around by renegotiating decades of bad trade policy so that it serves the public interest and protects our kids.”
"On the campaign trail, no one has done more to bring attention to the problem of bad trade deals and the poison toy issue than John Edwards."Unfortunately, Edwards voted for legislation that is arguably the main cause of the crisis: Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China. By voting to allow China to join the WTO in 2000, Edwards and his colleagues who voted yes on PNTR signed off on a provision that requires WTO member nations NOT to inspect anything imported by another member nation any more rigorously than a domestic product.
If the United States were to apply greater scrutiny to imports from a country with lax safety standards like China, foreign corporations have the right to sue the United States.
To be fair, overall, among the Democrats, Edwards has a good rating from Public Citizen on trade.
The Global Trade Watch website rates all the candidates on their trade votes going back to the 1970s for those who were in Congress that long.
Clinton gets 43 percent. Obama gets 50 percent. Edwards gets 63 percent. The only candidate with a higher percentage is Kucinich, with a nearly perfect score.
Having made it such a high profile issue in his campaign, Edwards has arguably done the most to spotlight the problems with trade agreements. Still, the vote is a problem.
Edwards has made a point of saying that his kids will not get anything made in China for Christmas. Perhaps he needs to go further and declare, as he did with his vote to authorize the Iraq War, that he made a mistake.