Florida City Tries to Ban Chinese Products

Upset over recalls and political issues, one city weighs a ban on Chinese goods.

ByABC News
October 23, 2007, 1:16 PM

Oct. 24, 2007 — -- Made in China. These three words appear in virtually every household, office or school.

But one Florida city is considering stopping, or at least slowing, the flood of computers, coffee makers, artificial Christmas trees and other Chinese-made goods its residents buy each year.

Palm Bay, Fla., is considering voting on whether to ban the purchase of products made in China. If it passes, this central Florida town of 107,000 would be the first in the nation to enforce a ban on goods from one particular country, according to industry watchers. Residents would still be free to purchase whatever goods they want, but the city itself would face restrictions.

Mayor John Mazziotti proposed the ban after the latest spate of Chinese-made toy and pet food recalls. He cites the questionable quality and safety of the goods, China's rights abuses, its record of pollution and the fact that American manufacturing jobs have been lost to China as reasons for proposing the ban.

Some of the items affected include desks, chairs, lawnmowers, tires and numerous other items.

"I don't think people have the slightest idea how much is from China," said Mazziotti. "I remind people every day. Pick up that label and see where it's made. You might surprise yourself."

But is this just a political statement with no teeth?

The ordinance as written has many exceptions. It only applies to Chinese-made products costing more than $50 or those in which more than 50 percent of parts are manufactured in China. In addition, the city may purchase a Chinese-made product if it is not available otherwise. Finally, if an alternative product, for example an American-made wheelbarrow or an Indian-made rain jacket, costs 150 percent or more of the cost of the Chinese-made product, the city can opt for the one made in China.

If the ban passes, Palm Bay will have to make additional efforts to avoid Chinese-made products. Currently small purchases are made by each individual city department, according to the purchasing and contracts division. They need only to obtain quotes for products or services above $2,500, which makes it easier for a department that needs to order stationery or buy a laptop or microwave oven. Ensuring it does not come from China will complicate a purchase.