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With expanding global trade, the challenge of protecting consumers from unsafe food, pharmaceuticals, and consumer products has grown increasingly salient, necessitating the development of new policy ideas and analysis. This chapter introduces the book, Import Safety: Regulatory Governance in the Global Economy, a multidisciplinary project analyzing import safety problems and an array of innovative solutions to these problems. The challenge of protecting the public from unsafe imports arises from the sheer volume of global trade as well as the complexity of products being traded and the vast number of inputs each product contains. It is further compounded by the fact that as products move across jurisdictional boundaries regulators face a host of legal, cultural, and practical obstacles. We argue that import safety problems require rethinking domestic regulation, whether through improving the targeting of traditional government inspections, building stronger public-private partnerships, or making changes in products liability standards. International cooperation will also be needed but will be even more challenging. At every step in the supply chain, regulators face questions of what level of safety to aim for, what form of regulatory standards to adopt, and how compliance with such standards should be monitored and enforced – and yet different countries tend to answer these questions differently. This chapter not only raises the key questions regulators and the public confront in tackling a vexing global challenge, but it also previews Import Safety’s analysis of institutional capacity and a range of potential regulatory responses that can harness market actors to drive improvements in product safety.


international trade and regulation, safety of imports, product liability and safety regulation, regulation of foreign manufacturers, consumer law and policy, regulatory standards, compliance, enforcement

Publication Title

Import Safety: Regulatory Governance in the Global Economy

Publication Citation

in Import Safety: Regulatory Governance in the Global Economy (Cary Coglianese, Adam Finkel & David Zaring, eds., University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009).