The new Chairman of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC”), Inez Moore Tenenbaum, plans to attend the third biennial consumer product safety summit from October 21 through 26, 2009 in three Chinese cities, Beijing, Wuxi (Jiangsu Province), and Jinhua (Zhejiang Province). The CPSC delegation will meet its Chinese counterpart agency, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection, and Quarantine (“AQSIQ”), and manufacturers and exporters.
China’s commercial reputation in the United States was seriously damaged in 2007 because of safety problems with food and toys. China’s subsequent domestic scandal over infant formula in 2008 heightened the concerns of American consumers. The public response revealed, however, that the CPSC was underfunded, with a limited mandate to inspect and enforce safety rules. The policy of the Bush Administration had been to favor voluntary compliance with industry-defined safety standards instead of mandatory laws and regulations.
There has been much anticipation of how the Obama Administration, committed to “change,” might change the ways and means of the CPSC, especially in dealing with China. In May, President Obama included in his budget a 71 percent increase in CPSC funding. Consequently, the Tenenbaum visit to China could be particularly important. It could lead to policy changes affecting access to the U.S. market for Chinese products.
Officially, the CPSC and the AQSIQ expect to help U.S. importers and Chinese suppliers “establish a comprehensive and systemic approach” to meet both voluntary standards and U.S. laws and regulations. Recent regulatory developments in the United States under the Obama Administration already are impacting Chinese manufacturers and exporters of toys, bicycle parts, jogger strollers and youth electronic devices, as John Burke discussed in two previous blog posts (“CPSC Issues Exemptions To Lead Content Requirements” and “Recent Changes To U.S. Consumer Protection Laws Affect Chinese Exporters”).
Tenenbaum, nominated by President Obama on June 9, 2009 and confirmed by the Senate ten days later to serve as the ninth Chairman of the CPSC, was not an obvious appointment to this specialized agency. Her background is in education, not consumer safety, but her early endorsement of Obama and support during the primary elections could give her direct access to the White House. According to Newsweek columnist Howard Fineman, the first person Obama embraced (after his wife) on primary night in South Carolina was Tenenbaum. The appointment may have been more important to Obama politically than substantively, but Obama understands the importance of consumer safety both for his own stature and for relations with China, in particular.
President Obama also nominated Robert S. Adler and Anne M. Northup as CPSC Commissioners, which is part of the White House’s effort to expand and strengthen the agency. For more than fifteen years, CPSC operated with only three Commissioners, and in the final years of the Bush Administration frequently was without even three. Confirmed by the Senate on August 7, 2009, Adler and Northup expand the agency’s leadership to five and bring important professional and political resources: Adler spent eleven years (1973 – 1984) as an attorney-advisor to two CPSC Commissioners, and Northup, an experienced Republican politician, represented the 3rd congressional district of Kentucky in the United States House of Representatives, from 1997 to 2007, where she served on the powerful House Appropriations Committee. The combination of moves – the appointment of an early and ardent supporter of the President as Chairman; the expansion of the number of Commissioners from three to five; bipartisan appointments mixed with experience and expertise in consumer safety; early regulatory reform – all suggest a serious presidential commitment. The trip to China, four months after Ms. Tenenbaum’s appointment, signals a primary commitment to improved consumer safety regarding Chinese products.
中美负责消费品安全的两大机构将帮助美国进口商和中国供货商“建立全面、系统的接触机制”，帮助他们达到自愿性标准和美国法规规定。奥巴马政府的法规建设已经影响玩具、自行车部件、童车以及少年用电动产品的中国生产、出口商。John Burke撰写的两篇搏客介绍了这些法规变化（“CPSC Issues Exemptions To Lead Content Requirements” and “Recent Changes To U.S. Consumer Protection Laws Affect Chinese Exporters”).
奥巴马总统同时提名Robert S. Adler和Anne M. Northup为消费品安全委员会委员，这是白宫扩展、加强这一机构建设的举措之一。过去十多年里，只有三位委员负责消费品安全委员会工作，在布什政府执政的最后几年，甚至只有两位委员主持工作。Adler和Northup在今年8月7日获得参议院批准，他们不仅将消费品安全委员会的领导层扩充到五位，同时也为该机构带来重要专业、政治资源。Adler曾在该机构任职十一年（1973 – 1984），担任两位委员的法律顾问。Northup则是资深共和党政治家，于1997至2007年出任肯塔基州第三区众议员，并在权力巨大的众议院拨款委员会任职。这一系列举动——任命总统的忠实支持者为主席，将委员增加至五位，跨党任命并任命拥有丰富专业背景人士，尽早进行法规改革——都充分显示了总统的决心。Tenenbaum女士上任四个月就访华，这也显示了她改善中国产消费品质量的决心。