Remarks of U.S. Consul General Phillip Min at Consumer Product Safety Seminar


CHENNAI: Vanakkam! Good Morning!  I am delighted to be here with all of you today to inaugurate this two-day seminar on consumer product safety.

Thank you to the Consumer Association of India and specifically to Ms. Desikan, Mr. Desiraju, Ms. Thuraisingham and all the participants who are working towards a safer tomorrow.  I’d also like to thank Larry Hershman from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for joining us in Chennai to share his experience and expertise.

Consumer safety is an excellent example of the best of the U.S. – India partnership.  Indian and American businesses trade, sell, manufacture, and use each other’s products every day.  American and Indian consumers drive, play with, wear, build, eat, and use goods from each other’s countries every day.  We both want to ensure the safety, purity, and quality of the goods and products we bring into our homes and workplaces.  And that is why the U.S. Consulate General is sponsoring this seminar here in Chennai.

Chennai is known as the Detroit of India.  The city is a hub for vehicle manufacturing and export.  In the United States, it was automobile safety concerns that drove the creation of national safety standards and consumer protections.  In 1965, a controversial book titled “Unsafe at Any Speed” accused car manufacturers of resisting the introduction of safety features.  The book sparked a national conversation about the responsibility of manufacturers to design and build safe products, and the rights of consumers to have access to information about the products they purchase.

One of the panels in today’s seminar will directly examine the issue of automobile safety.  We are bringing together experienced Indian and American professionals – manufacturers, advocacy community members, and regulators – to work together to ensure vehicles imported into and exported out of India meet the highest safety standards.

We are glad to have representatives from Ford and Daimler with us today to discuss safety standards in vehicle manufacturing.  The discussions you have today will lead to a survey of best practices that will protect drivers and passengers across the country.

India has long recognized the need for strong consumer protection.  Almost 30 years ago, India passed the Consumer Protection Act “to promote and protect the rights of the consumer.”  In the United States, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death associated with the use of thousands of consumer products under the agency’s jurisdiction.

Consumer product incidents exact personal cost, and deaths, injuries, and property damage caused by such incidents also harm our economy – at a cost of over $1 trillion annually.

CPSC reviews everything from toys to cribs to power tools to cigarette lighters and household chemicals to ensure their safety.

Americans trust CPSC, and the Commission takes a leadership role in identifying and addressing the most pressing consumer product safety priorities.  It is the CPSC that mobilizes action when needed, both at home and around the world.

A key goal of this seminar is to identify specific action to create a Consumer Product Safety Authority here in India like the CPSC.  This seminar is but one tangible example of the strategic partnership between our two countries.  By bringing specialists like Larry Hershman together with Indian vehicle manufacturers, insurance professionals, and advocacy leaders, we can learn from one another and build stronger mechanisms to protect all of our citizens.

The U.S.-India Strategic Partnership includes many initiatives across a broad range of areas including education and skills development, economics and trade, and science and technology.  Ultimately, our most important objective is to facilitate people-to-people connections between the United States and India.  In that sense, the U.S. Consulate General in Chennai plays a special role.

We implement U.S. diplomacy at the local level, directly addressing the needs of every day Indians: we help a business delegation in Bangalore find a commercial partner in Indiana; we encourage a young girl from Chennai to attend space camp in Florida; we assist a grandfather from Kerala who wants to visit his grandchildren in Chicago.  And today, we are sponsoring this seminar organized by CONCERT and the Consumer Association of India.

To that end, I wish you a productive and engaging two days.  I look forward to seeing recommendations coming out of this seminar to strengthen consumer protection.  Good luck and let the work begin!

Thank you.