Inspecting Supply Chains by mattsteinglass
May 12, 2007, 11:56 am
Filed under: Trade

On a similar note, Atul Gawande  has a typically excellent op-ed in today NY Times arguing that we need to do something about guaranteeing safety in international supply chains for medical and food products. This is one of those stories that seems unbelievably boring and impossible to attract public attention to — until suddenly a bunch of people are killed by peanut butter from China, at which point it becomes suddenly the hugest story in the world. (Assuring proper credentials at flight-training schools is another story like that.)

And, again, I think there are no real downsides to instituting policies of hard, fast, massive trade retribution for failures to properly monitor the supply chain in food and medical products, and weed out counterfeits. I don’t think it would be going too far to abruptly ban all medical imports from China if a serious counterfeit-drug problem cropped up, much the way South Korea banned US beef after the mad-cow disease scare. There’s something one learns after living in Vietnam for a while: in countries like Vietnam and China, the phrase “this problem is too complex to solve quickly” is translatable as “we don’t care enough about this problem to do anything about it at the moment”. When problems start to cost billions of dollars, they get solved incredibly rapidly. Not that this is limited to Vietnam and China; the US behaves in pretty much the same way.


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