The philosopher George Santayana wrote: “If we do not learn from the mistakes of others, we are bound to repeat them”. With that in mind, this week I am in India talking with apparel, textile and footwear manufacturers and exporters about the challenges of the CPSIA. As exports to the U.S. from India continue to grow, Indian manufacturers are determined not to repeat the experiences of their counterparts in China.
I have made several speeches about the new law and held meetings to discuss its requirements with apparel and other business representatives in New Delhi as well as in Chennai, which is the center of the Indian leather industry. I also met with representatives of several Indian consumer organizations.
Indian exporters are aware that there is a new safety law in place in the U.S. but know few of the details. My task here is to explain to them both the requirements of the law and the reasons behind it — and that is no easy task. Like those in the U.S., Indian apparel and footwear manufacturers view safety as a core value. However, I have heard the point made repeatedly that manufacturers make products to the specifications they are given by those importing products into the U.S. This emphasizes the key responsibility of those U.S. companies who source their products overseas. Safety and quality assurance must be integrated links in the entire supply chain.
Like their U.S. counterparts, the Indian businesses with whom I have been talking are very anxious about the testing and certification requirements in the new law. They are concerned about both the cost and availability of testing laboratories. They need the CPSC to clarify testing and certification requirements as early as possible and in a manner that minimizes burdens and gives them plenty of lead time to adjust to those requirements. In this respect, they are no different from their U.S. counterparts.
Many manufacturers here were unaware that the new law now calls for non-complying imported products to be destroyed rather than be re-exported. One of my core messages to them: the CPSC wants to work with them to help them get it right to avoid violations.
The challenges that U.S. companies face in complying with the CPSIA are shared by businesses around the world that make and export products to the U.S. In this world, what goes around does indeed come around. And we want it made with safety in mind.