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Chinese toys for US ministers
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Dolls and toy dogs have become the keepsakes some senior American officials have received on their first day in Beijing for a high-profile trade and commerce meeting between China and the United States.


US Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez was happy with the life-size toy dog presented from Li Changjiang, chief of China's product quality watchdog, who had taken great pains to defend and improve the reputation of China-made products. "It's a lot of fun. The gift is very nice," he said.


Observers said that the carefully selected gifts ranging from dolls with curly blond hair or electric trains indicated that product safety would be an important issue to be discussed on the 18th China-US Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade.


Mike Leavitt, US Secretary of Health and Human Services, disclosed that two agreements are to be signed on Tuesday afternoon to ensure the exports of China-made food, feed, drugs and medical devices will meet US standards.


"We think we are on a glide pattern, which will produce a successful outcome in our relationship with the Chinese government," Leavitt said.


As one of the delegate to participate in the 3rd China-US "strategic economic dialogue" to be held on Wednesday and Thursday, Leavitt said he was coming to build bridges between the two countries.


"Our systems are different and yet we need to achieve a common result," he said.


Li Changjiang, who had talks with Gutierrez, Leavitt and Susan Schwab, US Trade Representative Ambassador, on Monday afternoon, hoped the annual dialogue would further promote the bilateral cooperation on food and product quality issues.


The discovery of substandard products such as toothpaste and toys imported from China earlier this year have worried some US consumers about the quality of "made-in-China" goods.


But Christopher A. Padilla, acting under secretary for international trade of the US Department of Commerce, said he would take the doll back to his niece and believed she would be happy to receive such a Christmas gift.


During his tour to the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, Leavitt said product quality was not only about China but about improving the monitoring of import and export systems of all the countries. "If you desire to produce goods for the American consumer, you need to meet American standards of quality and safety."


The market confidence with China-made products has started to rally after the Chinese government launched a four-month sweeping national campaign to raise the awareness of product quality.


Customs figures revealed that Guangdong, China's major toy production base, has exported toys worth $4.94 billion in the first 10 months, up 22.9 percent over the same period last year. About 79 percent were exported to the United States and the European Union.


The southern coastal port province holds 70 percent of the Chinese toys made for export and about half of the world's toys.


To crack down upon manufacturers that supply shoddy goods, a new recall system was put into place this summer by the government, while government-sponsored training courses were available to manufacturers about toy certificate systems, export test regulations and standards in China, the United States and Europe.


"The government adopted an active and earnest attitude in handling the toy safety issue, which earned sensible responses from the buyers," said Dong Xiaolin, an international trade expert at the Guangdong University of Foreign Studies.


Guo Zhuocai, chairman of the Guangdong Huawei Toys Crafts Co., which makes 60 million sets of toys a year for domestic and foreign markets, said "Foreign buyers are getting tough on the quality and safety of China-made toys, and we are still learning to cope with that."


(Xinhua News Agency December 11, 2007)

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