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China Asked to Improve Product Safety Standards


The safety of foreign made exports to the United States will get increased attention next week. U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt is scheduled to sign trade agreements in China meant to ensure that all goods entering the United States fully comply with U.S. standards. The agreements are expected to serve as a template for other trading partners who want to do business in the United States. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.

During a tour of one of the busiest port facilities in California, Secretary Leavitt said it would be impractical to inspect all of the 3,000 cargo trucks that arrive here daily. "It would slow the economy to the point that consumers would not have what they want," he said.

Which is why Leavitt says trade agreements aimed at ensuring the safety of all imported goods arriving in the U.S. are at the top of his priority list when he meets with Chinese officials next week.

While the string of recalls involving food products and toys has proven to be a big embarrassment for China, Leavitt says the recalls are a reminder that more needs to be done to protect American consumers. "We have to begin to assure the quality is there before it comes to the United States."

Leavitt's visit concludes six months of cabinet level talks -- aimed at imposing stringent export quality controls from the originating countries during both the production and certification phases.

Leavitt says the message is the same for all countries that want to do business with the United States. "If you want to have continued access to our markets, you need to meet our standards of quality and safety. Now that's not just a message to the Chinese. That's a message for everyone," he said.

Nearly one million exporters will deliver an estimated $2 trillion worth of goods to the U.S. this year. The new trade accords would give federal agencies mandatory recall authority and the ability to levy fines of up to $10 million.

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