Official Warns EU May Ban Some Chinese Goods Over Safety Concerns

September 13, 2007

The European Union gave China a “last warning” Wednesday, saying the bloc may ban a range of Chinese products, including toys, that fail to comply with health and safety standards by October.

Next month, Beijing is expected to respond to the EU’s consumer protection worries over products made in China, a center for the world’s toy-making industry that exported $7.5 billion worth of toys last year.

Questions about the quality of Chinese toys, food and other exports have grown in recent months after a string of product recalls and import bans.

“This is the last warning,” EU Consumer Protection Commissioner Meglena Kuneva told a European Parliament committee.”If there’s an unsatisfactory report in October we will (impose) the next layer of measures. Among them is a ban on products.”

She did not specify what might be banned, but another EU official said that products concerned could include toys and some spare parts.

The EU received three reports from the Chinese on health and safety issues, and said none have answered its concerns.

Mattel Inc., the largest American toy company, issued three product recalls this summer for Chinese-made toys, removing millions of units of Barbie doll accessories, toy cars and other products because of unsafe levels of lead or magnets that too easily detach.

Seeking to tamp down public outrage over the recalls, Mattel’s CEO acknowledged Wednesday that the company made mistakes by not closely overseeing subcontractors in China whose toys didn’t meet U.S. safety standards.

On Tuesday, China signed an agreement to prohibit the use of lead paint on toys exported to the U.S.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Congress is pondering measures to improve oversight by boosting funding and stiffening fines, and President Bush in July created a Cabinet-level panel to recommend ways to guarantee safety of imported food and other products brought into the country.

The head of China’s product safety agency pledged Wednesday that China will make safer toys in time for the busy holiday buying season.

EU Commissioner Kuneva said no broader new legislation was necessary to protect the European market from Chinese goods. Instead, she called on EU member states to make the most of existing tools, such as an early warning system that alerts governments to faulty products.

“At this stage, there is no need for knee-jerk reactions requiring rafts of new legislation,” she said.

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