INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: Senator Nelson Raises Concerns Over Contaminated Drywall

Published: Thu 20 Aug 2009 08:28 AM
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DE RUEHGH #0367/01 2320828
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 200828Z AUG 09
FM AMCONSUL SHANGHAI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8227
INFO RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE
RUEHIN/AIT TAIPEI 1959
RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHINGTON DC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEHGH/AMCONSUL SHANGHAI 8878
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 SHANGHAI 000367
CODEL
SENSITIVE
SIPDIS
STATE FOR EAP/CM AND EEB
STATE PASS CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY COMISSION
STATE PASS USTR CHINA OFFICE
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON EIND ETRD PGOV OVIP CH
SUBJECT: SENATOR NELSON RAISES CONCERNS OVER CONTAMINATED DRYWALL
WITH AQSIQ
SHANGHAI 00000367 001.2 OF 002
(U) This message is sensitive but unclassified and for official
use only. Not for distribution outside of USG channels.
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Summary
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1. (SBU) In an August 11 meeting with senior officials of
China's General Administration of Quality Supervision,
Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ), Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL)
expressed concern over the devastating impact of contaminated
drywall imported from China on U.S. households and indicated
that President Obama might raise the issue with Chinese
President Hu Jintao in November. The AQSIQ officials insisted
that domestically purchased Chinese-produced drywall did not
show any signs of contamination but emphasized the AQSIQ's
desire for continued cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product
Safety Commission (CPSC) on this issue. End Summary.
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Senator Nelson Voices Concern
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2. (SBU) During an August 11 meeting in Shanghai, Senator Nelson
gave his PRC interlocutors -- AQSIQ Department of Supervision
and Inspection Deputy Director General Wang Zhiyong and Shanghai
Municipal China Inspection and Quarantine Bureau (CIQ) Deputy
Director General Xu Chaozhe -- an impassioned description of the
impact of Chinese-produced contaminated drywall that had been
imported to the United States. He explained that large amounts
of Chinese-made drywall had been used in Florida in 2004, after
the state experienced major hurricane damage, and that as many
as 100,000 homes may have been affected by problems such as
strong odors, metal corrosion, and respiratory issues linked to
contaminated drywall. The Senator noted that the cost of
replacing drywall was prohibitively high for many families and
that many people were forced to continue living in their homes
while being exposed to the contaminated material.
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AQSIQ: Drywall Investigation a Priority...
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3. (SBU) DDG Wang stressed to Senator Nelson the importance the
Chinese Government places on the drywall issue, noting that
Vice-Premier Wang Qishan had personally ordered AQSIQ to
investigate the problem. He also indicated that he had been
dispatched to Shanghai by AQSIQ Vice-Minister Wei Chuanzhong for
the sole purpose of meeting with Senator Nelson on this issue.
Wang added that he was aware the U.S. Consumer Product Safety
Commission had already received over 600 complaints from
January-June 2009 on contaminated Chinese drywall.
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...But Has No Reports of Drywall Problems in China
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4. (SBU) Nevertheless, DDG Wang claimed that AQSIQ had not
SHANGHAI 00000367 002.2 OF 002
received any domestic complaints over Chinese-produced drywall
and that AQSIQ researchers are "puzzled" over the cause of the
contamination in the United States. According to Wang, AQSIQ's
own testing of similar types of Chinese-produced drywall had
failed to reveal chemical emission levels that fall outside
international standards. In addition, Wang cited an independent
investigation carried out on behalf of German drywall
manufacturer, Knauf, which similarly did not find any problems
with the company's Chinese-manufactured drywall. Therefore,
Wang continued, it was impossible to draw conclusions about
whether Chinese-produced drywall was responsible for the
symptoms described by Senator Nelson.
5. (SBU) Wang did acknowledge, however, that AQSIQ only began
inspecting drywall in 2009 after having been contacted by CPSC,
which had expressed concern that tainted drywall recently
discovered in the U.S. had originated in China. He indicated
that it was impossible to trace gypsum used in drywall
manufactured more than one year ago back to its source but did
not elaborate on why this was the case.
6. (SBU) DDG Wang said that AQSIQ looked forward to continuing
to work with the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission on
this issue and noted that a CPSC experts group would be arriving
in Beijing on August 17 on the heels of Senator Nelson's visit
to further its investigation into the drywall problem. Wang
also emphasized that AQSIQ had allocated special funding to
conduct additional tests on Chinese-produced drywall but said
that these tests were still ongoing and that one needed to wait
for the tests' results before jumping to conclusions.
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Nelson: Reputation of Chinese Brands Harmed
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7. (SBU) Senator Nelson emphasized that tainted drywall had
further damaged the reputation of Chinese products, much like
the 2007 lead-paint toy scandal. Wang responded by noting that
AQSIQ had cooperated closely with the USG to address the
lead-paint problem and that CPSC was now receiving fewer
complaints about Chinese toys. He added that AQSIQ did not want
the overall reputation of Chinese manufactured goods to suffer,
stressing that AQSIQ had been very responsive to CPSC requests
for information on drywall manufacturers, distribution
companies, gypsum mines, etc. Wang admitted that, as a
developing country, China still faced quality control problems
with individual products but emphasized that individual cases
should not provoke a reaction against all Chinese goods.
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POTUS May Discuss Drywall with Hu
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8. (SBU) Senator Nelson concluded by stating that President
Obama may raise the contaminated drywall issue when he meets
with Chinese President Hu Jintao in November. The Senator
expressed his hope that this issue would be resolved before
then.
9. (U) Senator Nelson's delegation has cleared this message.
CAMP
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