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Public Citizen Ties Unsafe Toys to "Race to the Bottom"

Public Citizen Ties Unsafe Toys to "Race to the Bottom"

“Toy and retail companies have systematically pushed for ‘trade’ agreements that provide new investor protections and safety limits to protect their ‘low road’ offshoring business strategies.”
-Todd Tucker, Public Citizen

December 20, 2007 —

With concerns over toy safety possibly at an all-time high, it would be interesting to take a step back and look at what exactly has changed about toy manufacturing and how that may have lead to companies like Mattel selling children toys made of lead paint and the "the date-rape drug." Public Citizen did just that in a 27-page report released yesterday, tying a decrease in safety to the decrease in wages and maximized profit margins toy companies are finding overseas. From Common Dreams:

In 1970, 86 percent of U.S. toys were produced domestically, employing 60,000 American workers; average U.S. toy firm profits were $50 million; CEOs made 58 times what their production workers made; and annual recalls never exceeded 12 per year. Today, 87 percent of U.S. toys are produced overseas, toy firm profits have soared 1,750 percent to $930 million annually, and CEOs make... more than 21,000 times the average 36 cent hourly wages earned by Chinese production workers, who produce 74 percent of U.S. toy while recalls have skyrocketed with 120 recalls in 2007 alone.

Meanwhile, presidential candidate Barack Obama said yesterday that he would halt the importation of all toys made in China until better safety measures were in place. The proposal is pretty unlikely to become policy — as Obama himself tacitly admitted — given how much of the toy market these imports make up, but Obama also proposed an on-site inspection system that the industry has thus far resisted:

We have the power right now to set up our own inspection systems in China. The Japanese do this on food, they basically say to China, you cannot import food unless you meet our safety inspectors... We don't do that.


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