Pr. Geo.'s Delegate Rankles Chinese Government
Del. James W. Hubbard seems to have started a trade dispute with China -- and he's loving every minute of it.
The Prince George's Democrat began to rankle the Chinese government last winter, when the General Assembly took up his bill to make Maryland one of the first states to ban some products manufactured with lead.
Hubbard, who gravitates toward environmental issues, offered put in the bill in response to a high-profile recall of some Chinese-made toys last year that were found to contain too much lead.
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative alerted the Chinese government, which sent a letter from Beijing to protest the bill as a barrier to trade. Lawmakers in Annapolis were unfazed and passed the bill, which takes effect next month.
Then came a four-page missive from the World Trade Organization's Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade -- in English and Chinese -- opposing another of Hubbard's bills, to ban a chemical compound called bisphenol A that is central to the plastics industry. Manufacturers in the United States and China use the compound in baby bottles and other products. With testimony on both sides, the bill did not pass out of a House committee.
The Chinese said there is "no specific scientific evidence" proving that products containing bisphenol A are hazardous to children.
Hubbard said he believes both complaints were prompted by lobbyists for the chemical industry, here at home in Washington.
"I truly feel the [chemical] industry and the toy industry are running to China and saying, 'You ought to oppose these bills, and if you don't you'll lose out on product sales in America,'." he said.
An e-mail to the WTO's Beijing office seeking comment last week went unreturned, as did a call to a spokeswoman for the American National Chemistry Council in Washington.
"It makes me feel good that I'm hitting on something," Hubbard said. "If there wasn't a problem, they wouldn't be spending this kind of money and the time they are to try and kill my bills."
He says a bisphenol ban will be his priority when the General Assembly convenes in January.
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