Simhon: I’ll block ports to prevent unsafe imports

Industry, Trade and Labor Minister says he will work “aggressively” against “uncontrolled” importation.

Shalom Simhon 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski/The Jerusalem Post))
Shalom Simhon 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski/The Jerusalem Post))
Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Shalom Simhon said Thursday he would work “aggressively” against attempts from Treasury officials to open the economy to “uncontrolled” importation.
Israeli industry was facing a challenging period because of deteriorating global economic conditions, he said at the Kibbutz Industries Association’s annual conference in Ramat Gan.
Simhon accused Finance Ministry officials of using the Trajtenberg Report on socioeconomic change to further their own agenda, including removing all import restrictions.
“We are in favor of competition, for opening the market and for streamlining,” he said.
“But those who think the citizens of Israel will enjoy junk products from Southeast Asia and from South America are mistaken.
“Products that don’t meet health and safety standards won’t enter Israel. I won’t allow a situation where a child holds an unsafe toy or a student writes with a pencil made from unsafe lead... even if I have to block the ports myself.”
Labor Party Chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich, speaking after Simhon, said the Trajtenberg Report’s recommendation to remove importation barriers, thereby exposing Israeli industry to mass layoffs, was “Orwellian.” She, too, accused Treasury officials of bringing all their “bizarre” ideas to the report.
Simhon and Yacimovich both called for the budget to be expanded to deal with the deteriorating condition of the global economy.
“This is a dispute over Israel’s future character,” Simhon said.
“If the United States and Europe could pour billions into their budgets, then such a step will also benefit Israel. It would be much worse to send thousands of Israelis to apply for unemployment allowance.”
Yacimovich said her party was the only one with an alternative economic agenda – one called “social democracy,” which combines the free market with regulation that ensures it doesn’t turn into a “thuggish market.”
She said the kibbutz movement embodied these ideals, calling the Kibbutz Industries Association’s success “poetic justice” because it proved socialist values could go hand in hand with economic growth.
The Kibbutz Industries Association, formed in 1962, represents more than 300 industrial plants on kibbutzim, moshavim and regional enterprises.
According to data presented at the conference, the turnover of its affiliated plants has grown steadily in the last decade, reaching NIS 39.8 billion in 2010. The organization expects to end 2011 with a 2.5 percent rise in direct exportation and a 1.8% rise in sales to the local market.