China and product liability
Issues of safety and the flat earth rose to the forefront again this week, as an importer named Foreign Tire Sales of Union, NJ, was presented with a demand from the NHTSA to recall almost half a million radial tires it purchased in China. The tires were manufactured without the gum strip which prevents tread separation (much the same defect that killed the Firestone Tire Company and did such damage to Ford Motor Company).
The defect was known to Foreign Tire Company (FTC) for almost two years, but did not become public until it was uncovered in a personal injury lawsuit arising out of the wrongful death of two construction employees killed in a rollover accident in Pennsylvania. The Chinese manufacturer, Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber, which sells the tires under the brand names Westlake, Compass, Telluride and YKS admitted in September, 2006 that it "unilaterally decided to omit the gum strips" and was "generally unresponsive" when asked to address the problem. The owners of Foreign Tire Sales, Inc., say that they cannot afford to mount a massive recall effort or to replace or dispose of the defective tires. "We don't really know where to start....FTS...will have to go belly up." NHSTA officials were officially "outraged" at FTS's dilatory response, but consumers still have no recourse beyond watching FTS's owners collapse the corporation and its debts.
In states like Michigan where the retailer and wholesalers are not responsible for defective products, consumers will have no remedy whatsoever for product failures, since the Chinese manufacturers cannot be forced to respond to injury or death claims: the Chinese government routinely refuses to make them available to legal process, and they do not provide insurance coverage. Thus, Chinese companies have yet another strategic advantage over American firms, and cannot be held to account for errors made through negligence or greed, and American consumers are left to the mercy of taxpayers when dangerous products of Chinese origin cause grievous injuries.
In the name of international corporate profit, American citizens are being fleeced of their jobs, their safety, and their legal rights. Not only our manufacturing base, but also our perspective on justice, is being transformed overseas.