November 20, 2007 / 6:14 PM / 12 years ago

China makes "quantum leap" to avoid toy ban: EU

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - China has made a “quantum leap” in its crackdown on exports of unsafe toys and will not face a ban by the European Union on any of its products for now, the EU’s consumer chief will say on Thursday.

A laboratory staffer from SGS, an inspection, verification, testing and certification company, undergoes a 'sharp-point' test, intended to reduce the risks from sharp points causing punctures of the skin, on a toy car in Hong Kong September 13, 2007. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

A senior EU official also said that Consumer Protection Commissioner Meglena Kuneva will urge industry ministers at a meeting on Thursday to “step up their import checks and procedures”.

Kuneva threatened a ban if a report submitted by the Chinese authorities — to be published on Thursday — failed fully to address her concerns over the safety of toys made in China.

The Chinese report will form part of an overall review of EU toy safety standards which Kuneva announced in September following the recall of millions of toys due to excessive levels of lead paint and other unsafe components.

“The (Chinese) report shows that the Chinese have made a quantum leap and there is no need for a ban, at least not for the moment. That will be her message,” the senior European Commission official told Reuters.

Kuneva will make the comments to a news conference, the official said.

“But the Chinese will be expected to come up with a similar report every three to four months which we will also check extensively.”

The issue of toy safety is due to be discussed at a EU-China summit on November 28.

Mattel Inc — the world’s largest toymaker — has recalled over 21 million Chinese-made products in the last four months, sparking calls by lawmakers in Europe and the United States for a ban on products made in China unless the situation improved.

“To be honest we didn’t expect such a positive response from the Chinese authorities,” another Commission official said.

“But it just shows that the carrot and stick approach works. You cannot just go around banning everything from China. It would be ludicrous for both the industry and consumer, who would end up having to pay more in the run-up to Christmas.

“The two significant moves by China have been to increase their checks 10-fold, right down to regional level and the withdrawal of thousands of export licences,” the official added.

GLOBAL STANDARD

With the issue of China addressed for the time being, Kuneva will now set her sights on industry and the EU’s 27 governments in a bid to restore confidence in the toy market and ease the concerns of parents ahead of Christmas.

“In her report, the commissioner will be reminding the industry of their responsibilities and that the weight of responsibility lies with the manufacturer as the first line of defense,” the senior Commission official said.

She is also expected to propose the idea of new global toy safety standard which she discussed with her U.S. counterparts earlier this month.

Leading toymakers such as Mattel, Hasbro and Hornby are also said to favor a new independent global body to police a new global standard.

“The EU is ahead of the U.S. on this so if we get them on board, then this in reality becomes a global standard, which the Chinese and all other countries would have to sign up to as well,” the official said.

Editing by Paul Bolding

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