Washington: The Bush administration has said it wants officials from its Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be stationed in India to check the safety of food products bound for the US, and has initiated talks with New Delhi on the issue.
The regulatory body’s presence in India is necessary given the fact that more FDA approvals are coming out of India than any other country in the world other than the US, Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt said here, adding “It won’t happen overnight. But it is a high priority.”
Speaking at a meeting hosted the United States India Business Council, Leavitt, who was recently on a five-day visit to India, announced that the FDA is to begin carrying out checks on Chinese food products.
He said the FDA will create eight new positions at US diplomatic missions throughout China over the next two years, which will be contingent upon final approval from Beijing.
“We have also initiated conversations with the Indian Government on the need to have similar kinds of officers in India,” Leavitt said.
“We did not reach agreement; we did not seek an agreement; we are not actively negotiating. But we did make clear that part of our plan in the future would be to work toward that...” the senior administration official said.
He said product-safety problem is the natural consequence of a maturing of the global marketplace and a direct reflection of the profound growth in the amount of trade between nations.
“In the United States, we get imports from 825,000 different sources, through over 300 ports-of-entry. This is a very large, very complex sector of our economy. We’re going to import $2 trillion worth of goods just this year. And it’s growing. There are some estimates that would suggest that by 2015 we’ll see three times the amount of imports we have today,“ Leavitt said.
Making the point that it is simply impossible to check everything coming into the United States, Leavitt said the new concept of “rolling borders back” to have product safety implemented in originating countries has already struck roots in India, a nation he described as a “remarkable, vibrant and entrepreneurial place”.
In this context Leavitt paid handsome tributes to the India’s Spice Board, which he said “understands what it takes to trade with the United States” and in the special relationship it has struck with farmers, in the process making it easier for both parties.
“Our new strategy is that we have to roll the borders back and make certain that safety is built into every product, along every step of the supply chain. In India, I saw an example of how the market is already moving in this direction.
“The key to product safety in the future will be transparent, inter-operable systems in which people know who does and who doesn’t produce goods that are safe and effective. The role of government is to support not dictate that process,” Leavitt said.