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Chinese toys quality reputable, EU toy official says
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It is safe for European parents to buy Chinese-made toys for Christmas despite a spate of recall dramas involving Chinese products earlier this year, head of the European Union (EU) toy industry said.


Xinhua correspondents interviewed Bryan Ellis, chairman of Toy Industries Europe, at a time when there are widespread fears of low consumer confidence in Chinese-made toys in the run-up to the Christmas selling season after more than 20 million Chinese-made toys were recalled in the last four months for their allegedly excessive lead paint and unsafe magnets.


"My view is that if you buy good brands and from reputable retailers, it is safe to buy Chinese products as it is to buy any other products," said Ellis, whose institution includes global leading toy makers Mattel, Hasbro and Hornby.


Ellis said after the massive recalls, the EU toy industry still holds confidence in Chinese manufacturers due to their long-time cooperation and the Chinese manufacturers' expertise.


"Most people in the toy industry have a good confidence in Chinese manufacturers. We build expertise in this area for more than twenty years," he said, adding that as far as he knew, no EU companies have ever cancelled orders due to the recalls.


China is now the world's largest toy producer, but most of its products are outsourced by foreign brand owners. It exported 22 billion toys last year, about 60 percent of the world's total and roughly 75 percent of the toys sold in Europe are made in China, Ellis said.


As a frequent visitor to Hong Kong in the past 20 years working for various toy retailers, Ellis said he has been doing business with Chinese manufacturers for a long time, which gives him enormous confidence in their expertise.


"In fact, probably because of the expertise Chinese manufacturers get, it is safer to buy Chinese products than any other products," he added.


The EU toy industry chief also appeared largely optimistic about the sales ahead.


"The evidence of sales around Europe still shows a strong trend," he said, adding that "I won't be surprised if sales in Europe goes up by five percent this year," a reasonable increase compared to the past years.


"My impression is that the recalls have very little impact, if any, on consumers," he added.


Ellis said toy sales in the Untied States may be flat this year, but it probably has much to do with the economic slowdown, rather than product safety reasons.


Ellis' optimism was supported by the latest statistics from the Chinese authorities, which said orders for Chinese toys were on the rise in the run-up to Christmas.


According to the Customs authorities in southern China's Guangdong Province, which manufactures about 70 percent of the total Chinese toys made for exports, the value of toys exported by Guangdong slipped by 5.4 percent in September compared to the same period last year, but it regained strength to register a year-on-year increase of 27.6 percent in October.


In their response to the toy recalls, the Chinese authorities have made great efforts to improve the quality of its exported products. In Guangdong, 423 toy makers were deprived of their production licenses and 341 toy companies' operation was suspended for failure to observe toy safety rules.


EU Consumer Protection Commissioner Meglena Kuneva said last week China has made considerable progress in taking actions to ensure safety of toys exported to Europe.


Ellis said China's recent efforts were just in time to help regain confidence from consumers. He also acknowledged that there was also media exaggeration behind the toy recall dramas.


"It's rare to have large number of toys involved. But if you have been in the industry, you do have recalls from time to time. It's not desirable, but almost inevitable," he said.


When the Chinese-made toys were dubbed "toxic" and "dangerous" by the media, Ellis said it may present an exaggerated bad picture to the consumers.


"I think one of the things we got to understand in the industry and we get to make the public understand is there is difference between toys that infringe the regulations and something that is intrinsically unsafe or dangerous," he said.


As to what should be done next, Ellis said first of all, the Chinese government and the EU authorities need to work harder on rule enforcement, rather than an overhaul of the existing safety rules. But he agreed that there should be some minor changes to the current rules.


"The consensus broadly is the current level of regulations, both in China and in Europe, is satisfactory. The issues, if there are any issues, are with enforcement," he said.


At the same time, the EU toy industry chief said there should be a global approach to the toy safety issue.


He said the EU and the United States are trying to devise a global procedure for checking the safety processes, which have been properly completed, possibly through an international organization that will group national regulators, which he hopes China will also join.


"We have to get a global standard. It is not good business for people to have to manufacture under a series of standards," he said.


(Xinhua News Agency November 30, 2007)

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