Manufacturers routinely monitor product safety concerns, data, and compliance in each of the jurisdictions where their products are manufactured and distributed. With wide disparities in safety standards, safety enforcement, and the level of product liability exposures worldwide, this effort can be daunting. Does a manufacturer spend extra money to uniformly design and produce all of its global products to meet the toughest standards of any of the jurisdictions touching its products (an extra expense), or does it produce its products specific to each jurisdiction (a different extra expense)? Each path has its own problems. Would producing globally compliant, uniformly produced products impede competition with cheaper, locally produced products? In some cases, will compliance in one jurisdiction conflict with compliance in another? These are the tough questions facing many manufacturers of global products. With the explosion of global markets, the internet, and an increasingly small world, such questions have become more common place with passing time.
During this past summer, product safety officials from the United States, China, and the European Union met in Bethesda, Maryland, for a Third Biennial “Trilateral Summit” to discuss common product safety concerns, cooperation in enforcement and surveillance, and a “possible convergence of safety requirements.” See Joint Press Statement. Although the Trilateral Summit process will take many years to bear any fruit (the next meeting is not scheduled until 2014), the big three are talking. It might take a combination of official action and market influences over a lengthy period of time to unify the world on product safety issues, but any progress could be helpful.