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Health & Consumer Voice - December - 2008 Edition

Commission hosts first EU-China-US product safety summit

EU Consumer Commissioner, Meglena Kuneva, the US Chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Nancy Nord, and the Chinese vice-Minister of AQSIQ, Wei Chuanzhong, met on 7 November in Brussels for the first high-level trilateral summit on product safety. The high level meeting was intended to send a strong political signal of the determination of all sides to keep product safety at the top of the international political agenda, recognising that open markets can only be built on strong and secure management of global product supply chains.

This trilateral summit represents the first time that the EU, China and the USA have met at such a high level to discuss product safety, signalling their willingness to coordinate closely in this area and reinforcing their mutual commitment to enforcing high safety standards. The European Commission’s Rapid Alert System for dangerous consumer products (RAPEX), has consistently shown in recent years that approximately 50% of goods withdrawn from the EU market are of Chinese origin.

This is a function of course of the huge trade flows of consumer goods coming from China – for example, around 85% of toys on the European market are made in China. Equally it is clear from the RAPEX figures that significant numbers of products recalled and withdrawn are manufactured within the European Union or the US.

The tripartite meeting steps up indeed EU- China - US co-operation. First, a revised Memorandum of Understanding strengthening bilateral co-operation between the EU and China to enforce product safety standards and strengthen cooperation and exchange of information on food safety has been signed by Commissioner Kuneva, Commissioner Vassiliou and vice-Minister Wei prior to the high level meeting. Then, trilateral priority areas for action have been agreed and set out in the joint press statement, including on product traceability, co-operation by all three parties on toy safety standards, expertise exchange and joint enforcement actions. Finally, discussions focused on action to strengthen information exchange between the partners on alerts and recalls – in particular using new US product safety legislation which will allow more open information exchange on product recalls and dangerous products. This Summit was part of a broader Product Safety Week, which has been hosted by the Commission on 7-2 November.

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