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EU: China makes considerable progress in product safety

China has made considerable progress in taking actions to ensure safety of toys and other products exported to Europe, the European Union consumer chief said on Thursday.

An EU overview of China’s efforts showed the Chinese authorities have made “a significant effort with respect to the enforcement actions it took as a follow-up to the RAPEX notifications of dangerous consumer goods,” EU Consumer Protection Commissioner Meglena Kuneva told reporters. RAPEX is an EU-wide rapid alert system for non-food consumer products. Since 2006, the EU has been relaying information to China of unsafe products of Chinese origin which were reported on the European market under its RAPEX. China agreed in July to present a detailed report on prevention measures and the follow-up to European alerts in October after Mattel, the world’s largest toy maker, made massive recalls of Chinese-made products for concerns about lead paint and magnets that could be swallowed. Mattel later said it should take full responsibility for magnets related recalls due to design problems.

Describing the latest report as “encouraging,” Kuneva said China has fully investigated 184 cases during the three-month period from July to September, while corrective actions were taken in 43% of the cases. Among those actions, 93 export bans were put in place and in 14 cases, supervision was strengthened over the manufacturers. “I believe that these kinds of outcomes show that our co-operative approach with the Chinese is one that we can build on,” Kuneva said. By December, China will put in place a domestic alert system modeled on the RAPEX system to co-ordinate work with the regions and increase effective cooperation. Kuneva said it is another positive signal and the EU will increase technical support and training to China in the field of product safety, particularly in relation to the new Chinese domestic alert system.

An EU-China trade project will carry out a study of product safety control mechanisms in place in China, to identify areas for further co-operation, she said, adding the product safety issue will be discussed at the EU-China summit next week. Kuneva again warned against the use of consumer safety as a disguise for protectionism, insisting on an open economy for the benefit of European consumers. “There is a very thin line between protection and protectionism. There are some old-world protectionists, who would like to ‘hide behind the skirts’ of consumer safety,” she said, “Open markets are built on consumer confidence.”

Asked about the possibility of a ban on toy imports from China she had previously threatened if Beijing failed to address her concerns, Kuneva said EU efforts were focused on “preventing” such a ban. In the run up to the Christmas, Kuneva also warned parents against boycotting products from China, the world’s largest toy manufacturer, which exported 22 billion toys last year, about 60% of the world’s total. “Parents should not avoid buying Chinese toys. They want good prices, good choice and good services,” she said. Acknowledging there are no 100% guarantees in this world, she advised concerned parents to make their choice based on brands and labels. (