Link Trade, Food Safety, And Global Warming Together
Mary noted earlier in the week the story about China executing its former director of its food and drug agency for corruption. Consumer Reports released a study Wednesday in which 92% of the public wants “country of origin” labeling on imported food in the wake of recent reports of unsafe food and drug products from China. One of the byproducts of globalization is that the GOP has allowed our food and drug supply to go uninspected and virtually unregulated, selling our public health on the altar of campaign contributions and free trade agreements. This has created domestic and international leverage points for Democrats, in that food safety and the GOP’s refusal to place public health ahead of private gain is a legitimate campaign issue in 2008.
I had a discussion over the Fourth of July holiday with a GOP attorney who argued with me about global warming, telling me that the earth has been warming for thousands of years. When I asked him if he was arguing for doing nothing and denying that human activity was contributing to an acceleration of global warming, he tried to pivot to a criticism of environmentalists for only offering wind and solar solutions that aren’t economically possible now. He asserted that Gore would never be president because he and the environmental community only wanted solar and wind power and were against coal and nuclear, and that voters will never elect someone who isn’t serious on this matter. I responded “fine, you can have fusion and breeder reactors, and you can have natural gas and clean coal plants as transitional energy sources in this country for the next 30-50 years while we develop and transition to renewable energy sources and off oil.” He seemed flummoxed at this, and then was left to sputter, “Well, it doesn’t matter what we do to reduce emissions because China and India will simply create more greenhouse gasses than we reduce.” Again, I asked him if he was arguing for doing nothing while the planet died, and he had no answer.
I told him that if the United States joined Europe, Japan, Russia and almost all other countries in a global warming pact that reduced emissions, we would isolate China and India and gain the high ground to force them to accept those emission reductions as well. I also told him that our trade deficit with China and India was actually financing their destruction of our manufacturing base and their emission increases. His reply was that China and India were not going to agree to any reductions because we had no leverage with them. When I told him it was well past time for trade benefits to be linked to global cooperation on environmental issues like global warming, he scoffed that the Chinese are impervious to trade pressures and that the American public will never accept higher prices from tariffs on Chinese goods for the sake of global warming.
As Exhibits A and B of the fallacy of his arguments that the Chinese are impervious to trade pressures or such linkages, I give you the dead body of former director of the drug and food agency in China, and the results of this new poll. Simply put, China has been jumping through hoops these last several weeks to demonstrate some degree of responsiveness to their food and drug safety problems. In a global economy where developing countries are so dependent on their unfettered ability to sell cheap goods and labor, China and India cannot afford to be labeled as world pariahs when it comes to food safety and environmental degradation.
The only folks who refuse to push for global accountability on food safety and environmental issues are the free trade Republicans who look for excuses to do nothing, and continue profiting from the current GOP practice of placing private gain over public health.