Quality products for Europe; trash for America and the Third World
Major multinational companies which manufacture sophisticated hazard-free products for the European Union on one production line, often, on another parallel production line under the same roof, produce cheap, toxin-filled versions of the same products for less sophisticated markets in developing countries and the USA.
Examples of products produced for developing countries and the USA, but not for Europe, include hair dye containing coal tar carcinogens, children's toys containing phthalates, and furniture containing formaldehyde.
The recent political evolution of the USA has engendered a culture which allows potentially toxic and mutagenic chemicals, banned by the EU, to be included in everyday Third World and American products. This is for business and legal reasons. They're cheaper and the profit margin is wider. To remove the toxins would be expensive and would lead to the loss of American jobs, it is claimed.
Also, to remove a carcinogen from a product on safety grounds is to admit that you knowingly sold that carcinogen to customers before it was removed. In the political and legal culture of litigant America, such an admission could be ruinous for manufacturing corporations.
Meanwhile Europe tells the multinationals to clean up or they'll buy elsewhere. Simple. And the multinationals clean up a calculated portion of their production so as not to lose the market.
There's been a change. A few years ago, the USA was the single most powerful economic force in the world. But now the European Union has a bigger economy than the USA. The EU exports more goods to the rest of the world than the USA. The EU has a higher GNP than the USA. Forget China. Forget India. Europe is the main man of the moment in many consumer sectors.
The political decay in the USA since the year 2000 has been shadowed by a concomitant economic and business deterioration. The USA owns nobody except its supine electorate. The rest of the world owns America. The power dynamic has shifted. The USA is now in the position that the developing world was in, in relation to the USA, a generation ago. Political immaturity has led to macroeconomic decline. All roads, it is said, eventually lead to Rome.
Sources: AlterNet 15.08.07 - Vanja Petrovic interviews Mark Schapiro, Editorial Director of the Centre for Investigative Reporting at Berkeley; Centre for Investigative Reporting (Berkeley, California, USA) book review 15.08.07; The Nation (New York, USA) 09.12.04.
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