Growing international trade means that increasingly the same products are traded on markets across the world. There is therefore a need to improve cooperation on identifying unsafe products and ensuring that manufacturers across the world are aware of the safety requirements and apply them in practice.
European and US regulators face many identical challenges in this field. Many products are sold on both the
US and the EU markets, so often a product identified as dangerous on one market can still be circulating on
the other. Exchanging information on product recalls, on emerging health and safety issues and on standardisation
activities can help both sides improve the effectiveness of their activities. Consumer product safety is one
of the specific fields mentioned in the EU-US Guidelines for Regulatory Cooperation and Transparency negotiated
under the Transatlantic Economic Partnership (TEP).
Guidelines to strengthen transatlantic cooperation in this field were agreed in February 2005 between DG SANCO and the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). They encompass regular exchanges of information and establish a series of joint initiatives to help safeguard consumers’ health and safety.
People’s Republic of China
To establish better communication and collaboration between EU and Chinese authorities on general product safety and to support Chinese authorities in their efforts to ensure product safety, in particular for consumer goods exported to the EU, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between DG SANCO and AQSIQ (the Administration for Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine) from the People’s Republic of China was signed in January 2006. The MoU provides a framework for reinforcing cooperation between the two organisations. It puts in place a number of practical measures, including joint meetings, exchanges of information and follow-up to problems identified. This includes cooperation on tests and exchanges of information on scientific, technical and regulatory matters and emerging issues. One tangible measure under the MoU is that RAPEX information concerning products of Chinese origin has been made available on a read-only basis to AQSIQ, thereby allowing China to follow up directly notifications regarding unsafe products. This is essential as nearly half of the dangerous consumer products detected in the EU are imported from China. This is partly due to the fact that over the last decade China has become one of the EU's leading trading partners.
An agreement on a Roadmap for safer toys was concluded between the Directorate-General for Enterprise and Industry and DG SANCO from the European Commission and AQSIQ (the Administration for Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine) from the People’s Republic of China in September 2006. The Roadmap aims at ensuring that toys exported to the EU from China are safe. It outlines a strategy for improving the safety of Chinese toys, focusing on training and technical assistance, exchanges of RAPEX information between EU and Chinese authorities, and tracing, feedback and follow-up mechanisms for dangerous products. It puts in place a framework, supported by both the European and Chinese toy manufacturers' associations, for continuous exchanges of information on unsafe toys. It also contains a commitment from AQSIQ on tightening up inspection and supervision of toys exported to Europe.
International cooperation between regulators
The International Consumer Product Safety Caucus (ICPSC) is an informal network that has been set up to
further international cooperation between regulators on their shared objective of ensuring a high level of consumer product
safety. The objectives of the Caucus include developing cooperation arrangements to facilitate surveillance and enforcement
for products traded internationally, exchanging information on best practices for risk assessment, market surveillance and
enforcement measures, and identifying common needs, priorities and guidelines for international standards.
ICPSC normally meets in conjunction with the yearly US and international meetings of ICPHSO. In 2006 it met in Bethesda, Maryland, USA in May and it will meet in Brussels, Belgium in November. The meetings were attended by participants from the USA, the European Commission, China, Japan, Australia, Canada, Mexico and PROSAFE (the EU Member States' cooperation organisation).
International product safety forum
The International Consumer Product Health and Safety Organization (ICPHSO)
is an international forum for stakeholders in the public and private sectors with an interest in consumer product safety. ICPHSO has held
annual meetings and training symposia in North America for many years. In 2004, 2005 and 2006 ICPHSO held its first meetings in Europe.
These brought together high-level participants from the European Union and many of its Member States, the USA, China and Canada.
The 2006 meeting in Brussels
also included participants from countries such as Australia and Japan.
In 2007, the International Consumer Product Safety Conference was held for the first time in China, Beijing on 21 and 22 May. A video message of Commissioner Kuneva was broadcasted and a speech was held by Director-General Madelin and by Mr Soro, Head of the Product and Service Safety unit. Some pictures