DG Enterprise and Industry is actively involved in addressing issues encountered by EU industry internationally. In particular when operating in or exporting to China, and by EU citizens who may face problems with products coming from China. Furthermore, the DG strives to ensure smooth cooperation with the United States, which remains the European Union's leading customer.
Regular meetings of Chinese and European toy safety experts, including stakeholders, have taken place since 2002 within the framework of the Toy Working Group under the DG Enterprise and Industry-AQSIQ Regulatory Dialogue (DG Enterprise and Industry, and the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of the People's Republic of China).
Guidelines for Action on Cooperation for Strengthening EU-China Toys Safety between DG Enterprise and Industry and DG Health and Consumers and AQSIQ aiming at ensuring a high level of safety of toys manufactured in China were signed on 19 September 2006 in Brussels by Vice-President Verheugen and AQSIQ's Minister Li Chianjiang.
A number of specific actions are foreseen in the Guidelines such as exchange of information on safety rules and standards, exchange of information on safeguard notifications under the Toy Safety Directive and RAPEX (Rapid Alert System for non-food consumer products) notifications, the organisation of toy safety seminars and training of AQSIQ personnel to improve enforcement activities.
The Guidelines also put in place a framework, supported by both the European and Chinese toy manufacturers' associations, for continuous exchanges of information on unsafe toys. They also contain a commitment from AQSIQ to tighten up the inspection and monitoring of toys exported to Europe.
Marco Polo project
As part of the follow-up to the stocktaking exercise launched in August 2007 by the Commission, it was decided to undertake an evaluation of the measures that businesses are taking to ensure compliance with applicable safety requirements throughout the toy supply chain (the "Marco Polo project").
This project is coordinated by DG Health and Consumers, in close collaboration with DG Enterprise and Industry. In the framework of the Marco Polo project, extensive fact-finding visits were undertaken in China during the first half of March 2008 in order to gather first-hand information and investigate current practices 'on the ground'. The Commission was assisted in this evaluation by an expert group comprising toy industry, consumers, standardisation and Member State experts.
As a result of the Marco Polo project, stakeholders signed voluntary agreements with the Commission in order to act on and improve the safety of toys.
- Voluntary agreement between the European Commission and the Toy Industries of Europe
- Voluntary agreement between the European Commission and Eurocommerce, the European Retail Round Table, Toy Traders of Europe and the European Promotional Products Association
The aim of our cooperation with the US is to ensure that the transatlantic relationship runs smoothly. That includes having a good understanding of each side's regulatory system, removing or reducing, where possible, unnecessary differences in regulations and coordinating our enforcement mechanisms to address common safety concerns in connection with imported products with a view to improving safety and facilitating transatlantic trade.
For that purpose, DG Enterprise and Industry promotes regulatory cooperation with the American partners, taking into account input from stakeholders. Since May 2008, this includes, jointly with DG Health and Consumers, a dedicated transatlantic Working Group on Toy Safety and Other Children's Products with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) based on the EU-US Guidelines for Regulatory Cooperation and Transparency [40 KB] adopted in 2002. The WG was set up as a result of the 2007/2008 Joint EU-US initiative aimed at strengthening transatlantic cooperation on the safety of imported consumer products, carried out in the framework of the High-Level Regulatory Cooperation Forum and the Transatlantic Economic Council.
Current priority activities include:
- Close collaboration on the development of toy safety standards, especially by promoting the harmonisation of testing methods. This should lead to greater convergence of EU and US standards.
- Developing a common approach to general issues that are relevant to the application of both sides' toy safety regulations.
- Cooperation on enforcement matters through exchange of information on product recalls and market surveillance activities.
- Educating manufacturers and traders in China and Hong Kong on applicable toy safety requirements through coordinated action: for instance, joint outreach events were organised in September 2008 and November 2011 (see more here) and further similar activities are planned for the future; as another example of joint action, a trilateral roundtable discussion with Chinese authorities and stakeholders was organised in November 2011 with the aim of enhancing the effective dissemination of safety information for consumer products, including toys in particular, among all relevant economic and institutional actors (more information will be available soon on the website of the EU-China Trade Project).