China, US plan to work together on product safety

Updated: 2011-08-09 09:28

By Ding Qingfen (China Daily)

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China, US plan to work together on product safety

Richard W. O'brien of US consumer product safety commission

BEIJING - China and the United States have reached a consensus on tapping the potential of cooperation to improve the quality of Chinese consumer goods through more training programs for manufacturers, said officials from both sides.

"We would like the Chinese industries to move from focusing on specific product safety issues to a broader, long-range view about the reputation of Chinese products," said Richard W. O'Brien, director of International Programs and Intergovernmental Affairs of the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

He spoke to China Daily after a bilateral meeting with the counterparts from the Ministry of Commerce on Monday. Under the plan, the US will provide training to Chinese manufacturers.

"The meeting didn't have any specific goal. We have established that we both do have common objectives and we would look for ways to work together," said O'Brien.

"Improving the quality of goods is a concern for both China and the US, and we would like to develop channels on enhancing win-win cooperation with the US on issues of product quality," said Wen Zhongliang, deputy director-general of the department of foreign trade of the Chinese commerce ministry.

Sources from the ministry said high-level officials from the two sides discussed the possibility that the US could launch training programs related to consumer goods safety among Chinese producers and exporters, by leveraging on platforms that include the biannual China Import and Export Fair and the Canton Fair.

"In many cases, the manufacturer has to be the expert," said O'Brien.

Earlier this year, a spokesperson of the Chinese commerce ministry said improving the quality of Chinese goods for exports would be a major national task in the coming years through 2015.

While China's year-on-year growth for monthly exports has been on a decline during the first half of this year, experts had raised questions on how domestic manufacturers could strike the right balance between stabilizing exports and maintaining the quality of goods.

The US is the second-largest trade partner for China, following the European Union. It is estimated that more than 80 percent of US imports of consumer goods are from China.

As an organization that protects American consumers from unreasonable risks of injuries associated with consumer products, the CPSC had announced numerous recalls of Chinese goods in the US over the past three years. Some of these recalls include commemorative drinking glasses, drywall, pet food, toys, and food.

In 2010, the CPSC issued 220 recalls on Chinese goods.

"More communication and cooperation helps Chinese producers have better understanding of the US requirements, which helps facilitate Chinese exports to the US and to the rest of the world," said Zhou Shijian, senior trade expert from Tsinghua University.

The CPSC opened an office in Beijing in January, the first such establishment outside the US, to "let the Chinese industries better understand our requirements."