China promises lead-free toy export to US

Updated: 2007-09-12 10:44

Washington -- Chinese and US officials signed an agreement on Tuesday to prohibit the use of lead paint on toys exported to the United States.

Labourers work at a production line at a toy factory in Panyu, south China's Guangdong province, September 4, 2007. [Reuters]

Unveiled at the second joint China-US summit on consumer product safety, the pact was negotiated after US toy giant Mattel recalled 20.2 million Chinese-made toys, which caused a big stir in the world.

In the pact, Beijing pledged to step up inspections of its exports and take other steps to ensure that those products meet US standards as well as China's own rules that prohibit lead use. That will include joint efforts by the two countries to increase understanding of those standards among manufacturers and exporters.

The absence of such an understanding allowed paint suppliers to provide lead paint to companies making toys sold by Mattel Inc and other companies, said Wei Chuanzhong, vice minister of China's General Administration for Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ). Lead paint has been banned on toys made in the US since 1978.

"That's why we decided we should intensify the exchanges between importers and exporters in the field of standards," Wei said.

Nancy Nord, acting chairman of the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), said two days of talks with her Chinese counterpart indicated China was serious about helping keep unsafe products off the market.

"We are working very hard to assure that the marketplace is safe," she said on the second day of talks between the CPSC and AQSIQ.

Chinese and US regulators also agreed to hold regular product safety talks, including monthly discussions of recall activity and trends, Nord said. China also will help the CPSC trace products to their source when problems do arise.

The United States and China also agreed to cooperate on improving the overall safety of Chinese toy exports, as well as fireworks, cigarette lighters and electrical products.

"This is an important signal from the Chinese government that it is serious about working with CPSC to keep dangerous products out of American homes," Nord said.

But Wei stressed that most Chinese exports are safe, adding that 100 percent safety was impossible and warned against overemphasizing "limited problems".

"We should not over-propagandize the problem," Wei said.

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