- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 16, 2007

Chinese delegations will visit the United States in the coming weeks to address the safety of imports from China , a Chinese government spokesman said yesterday, stressing that international cooperation, not confrontation, would solve the quality problems with food, drugs and consumer goods coming from China.

“Exchanging accusations on the question of product quality will not help with a solution or with the process of addressing the issues,” Zhao Baoqing, first secretary of the trade and commerce section at the Chinese Embassy, said yesterday through a translator.

Mr. Zhao said that China has been in regular contact with U.S. officials over the last month — during a spate of recalls and import bans on everything from toys to fish. Those discussions and the two pending visits by Chinese officials are steps aimed at reaching agreements between the two countries on the safety of food and other products.

Mr. Zhao, addressing an unusual press conference at the Chinese Embassy in Washington yesterday afternoon, said Chinese officials have had three conference calls recently with U.S. officials from the departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services and the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office on product safety and quality.

U.S. officials traveled to China to investigate Chinese facilities after the Food and Drug Administration detained imports of farm-raised Chinese seafood June 28.

Mr. Zhao said Chinese delegations are coming to the United States this month and in September to discuss Chinese food- and product-safety measures.

The measures are aimed at reaching an agreement on food and feed safety and one on drugs and medical equipment, which he said could be signed at high-level economic-policy meetings in December.

Chinese officials also are considering an agreement with the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The briefing took place one day after Mattel Inc. recalled more than 18 million toys from China worldwide and following months of growing concerns over the quality of Chinese imports, including food ingredients, seafood, pet food, toothpaste, all-terrain vehicles and toys.

Tuesday’s Mattel recall covered 18.2 million magnetic toys around the world, 9.5 million of which were in the United States, and included Polly Pocket, Barbie and Batman dolls that could release magnets that could cause serious injuries. The company also recalled 253,000 “Sarge” cars from the movie “Cars” in the United States because they potentially contain lead paint.

The recall spurred reaction from Capitol Hill, including an announcement by Rep. Mike Ferguson, New Jersey Republican, that he would introduce legislation aimed at protecting children from unsafe imported toys.

“No parent in the country should ever have to worry about whether their children’s toys are toxic,” Mr. Ferguson said at the Kiddie Keep Well Camp in Edison, N.J.

The bill would require children’s toys to be certified by an independent third party and meet U.S. product-safety standards set by independent laboratories before they can be imported.

“This isn’t the first toy recall — it’s the third in two months, and it’s absolutely unacceptable. If toy companies choose to manufacture their products in China, they need to take every precaution that those toys meet U.S. safety standards. If they don’t, I believe Congress must give federal regulators the authority to ensure that our kids’ toys won’t actually harm them,” he said.

The bill is similar to a measure introduced in the Senate by Sen. Bill Nelson, Florida Democrat.

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