China, U.S. Agree to Boost Consumer Safety

Watchdogs from both countries will focus on improving the safety of toys, all-terrain vehicles, electrical products, lighters and fireworks.

On Oct. 26 China and the U.S. agreed to increase efforts to boost consumer safety, after several scandals in recent years involving dangerous Chinese-made products.

The statement, issued at the end of nearly a week of talks between the product safety watchdogs of both sides, comes three weeks before President Barack Obama arrives in China for his first visit since taking office.

"A systematic improvement of practices in the supply and distribution chain will be the most effective means of enhancing product safety," the agencies said in a joint statement. The watchdogs will focus on improving the safety of toys, all-terrain vehicles, electrical products, lighters and fireworks, the statement said.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and China's General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) also pledged to pursue "cooperative scientific and fact-based investigations" into Chinese drywall imports. U.S. homeowners have complained of physical illness and structural damage stemming from the drywall, also known as gypsum board, which was imported during the housing boom and has made some homes uninhabitable.

The reputation of China's poorly regulated and corruption-plagued manufacturing industry has been deeply tarnished in recent years by safety scandals involving dangerous foods, toys and other products.

An investigation found nearly half of the clothing and a third of the furniture made for children in the southern province of Guangdong were unsafe, with many products containing harmful chemicals, the China Daily reported in May.

It said just 53.5% of garments surveyed met safety standards, with many containing excess amounts of formaldehyde, a chemical that can cause skin or respiratory infections.

As for children's furniture, 67.7% of it was deemed safe, with some of the questionable products containing too much formaldehyde or health-endangering heavy metals including lead, cadmium and chromium.

The investigation found that 95% of the toys made in Guangdong were safe, the report said.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009

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