Keynote Address, 3rd CPSC-AQSIQ Safety Summit - Wednesday, October 21, 2009, Wuxi, China,

October 21, 2009

Good morning. Thank you very much Vice Minister Wei for your kind introduction.

 

I would also like to acknowledge a few others who honor us by being here this morning: Counsel General Beatrice Camp, Director General Wang and other esteemed AQSIQ colleagues.

 

To my Chinese colleagues it is an honor for me to be in your country as the Chairman of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, as we continue the important tradition of our biennial safety summit. This visit to China comes within the first four months of my tenure as Chairman, and it demonstrates the value I have placed on strengthening the relationship between our countries and our agencies.

 

The delegation that I am leading includes senior officials from CPSC, who specialize in the areas of compliance, hazard analysis, injury reduction, and international relations. These are experienced government employees who are deeply committed to CPSC’s mission and have been working in partnership with many of you since the last Summit.

 

I am also pleased to have leaders in manufacturing, retail, and testing laboratories as part of our delegation. Many of these business leaders have a presence in your country and have traveled here to contribute to our efforts to enhance product safety.

 

The theme of this year’s summit – “promoting best practices by Chinese manufacturers and U.S. importers to maximize product safety” –builds on the achievements of the 2007 Summit in Washington, DC. In the midst of a wave of toy recalls, two years ago CPSC and AQSIQ ensured that Chinese manufacturers understood the need to meet both voluntary standards and U.S. regulations.

 

AQSIQ responded by educating toy makers in China about U.S. safety requirements, closing thousands of factories that were not complying with limits for lead paint on toys, and strengthening quality controls in the manufacturing processes in this country.

 

I am pleased to report today that progress has been made over the past two years in the area of toy safety. CPSC data shows that in fiscal year 2008, there were more than 80 toy recalls, with nearly half of those recalls related to lead violations. In fiscal year 2009, there were about 40 toy recalls, with only 15 lead violations.

 

Of course, our goal is to have no toy recalls and no lead paint violations, but we are certainly moving in the right direction.

 

During the course of 2009, the U.S. lead paint and total lead limits became even more stringent for children’s products for those 12 and younger. As of August 14, the limits are now 90 parts per million for lead paint and 300 parts per million in total lead. We must stay committed at this year’s Summit toward the common goal of manufacturing children’s products that meet these requirements and keep children in both our countries safe.

 

In addition to focusing on standards, I would like to highlight additional outcomes from the 2007 Summit. CPSC is now:

 

- exchanging information with AQSIQ officials about recalls that relate to Chinese made goods, and

 

- conducting frequent training sessions.

 

- The CPSC has also created a Chinese language section on CPSC’s Web site.

 

The theme of this year’s safety summit is similar to the message I delivered to international regulators at the APEC Conference in Singapore in August. I spoke of the importance of building safety into products at the design and specification stage; ensuring that manufacturing practices meet the new U.S. safety requirements; and accrediting independent testing laboratories to screen for hazards in children’s products.

 

We must work as global partners to create a systematic approach to ensuring product safety, from raw materials to the finished product, from the toy factory in Shanghai, to the toy importer in San Francisco, to the toy store in Seattle. This was my message in Singapore in August and this is my message in Wuxi today. I trust that we will work in partnership at this Summit and that our efforts will result in AQSIQ finding new ways to spur on best production practices and CPSC finding new ways to hold importers accountable for the production of safe products. Our roles may be different, but our goals are the same.

 

If we are successful at this Summit, I believe it will also help further the vision of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). The CPSIA is a federal law that the United States Congress passed in 2008.

 

In the United States, the CPSIA has created a new paradigm for the development of standards, regulations, and conformance assurances. It has created a new system that requires change – change by U.S. toy designers and importers and by foreign supply chain managers and testing lab operators.

 

As CPSC has instituted one key part of the CPSIA - a mandatory third-party testing program for children’s products - we have done so with a view toward transparency and with recognition of existing global standards. Nearly 200 accepted laboratories from around the world are on the CPSC web site – many of them from China -- with more laboratories being added every week.

 

Discussing testing and other new requirements established by the CPSIA, and the additional rules that CPSC will create in the weeks and months to come, will be an important part of our work this week.

 

I would like to recognize that our Summit will discuss not only toys, lead in children’s products, and the CPSIA. During the Summit we will review our joint efforts to make sure fireworks, cigarette lighters and electrical products - longstanding bilateral areas of focus for us -- are as safe as possible for American consumers. The vast majority of these products are made here in China, and we want to continue the progress that has been made over the years to build safety into their design and reduce the risk of fire and shock to the consumer.

 

New to our agenda are all-terrain vehicles. I look forward to touring a factory and seeing an ATV testing facility here in China. ATVs are extremely popular in the United States; in fact, I have relatives who were avid riders. But, there is no consumer product that my agency oversees that is involved in more fatalities each year than ATVs.

 

First and foremost, we want to make sure riders in the United States use the vehicles properly, but we also want to make sure that ATV makers in China understand that there are rules to follow if their products are headed for our ports. Adult and youth sized ATVs all have mandatory requirements if they are to be sold in the United States. We trust that there is a shared commitment to ensuring that all ATVs are made to the highest safety specifications possible.

 

Another issue area that we must discuss is drywall or wallboard. This building material is widely used in American homes and has been the source of much concern and public attention since the beginning of the year.

 

My agency has collected more than 1500 reports from homeowners, mostly from three states, who have reported health problems and corrosion of electrical and copper components. These consumers are concerned that the Chinese made drywall in their home is causing these problems.

 

CPSC has one of the most expansive and expensive investigations in our history aimed at determining the answers to the questions these families have. I have personally visited many of these families, and they are suffering greatly.

 

I want to express my appreciation to AQSIQ for send two building products experts to my country to see the problem first hand, and then for allowing a team of experts from CPSC to come here in August to tour mines and factories and meet with Chinese experts.

 

I appeal to companies in the Chinese drywall supply chain to examine carefully their responsibilities to United States consumers who are suffering from problems in their homes, and to do what is fair and just in each case if their products are involved.

 

The Chinese government has been working, and continues to work with CPSC, on the technical side of the investigation and I hope that Chinese companies also will be responsive to U.S. consumers.

 

In a world where markets are so interconnected, all parties in the global supply chain have responsibilities to their end customers, wherever they are. While there is much to be done in the supply chain – and that’s a key part of our work that we’re here to discuss – regulators also have a responsibility to be responsive to the issues consumers face as they go about their daily lives.

 

We often say at CPSC that we don’t do trade – we do safety. My belief is that there is no inherent conflict between trade and safety, particularly if we keep in mind the interconnection of markets in all regions of the world and the responsibilities we all have to each other.

 

The spirit of cooperation and dialogue with which we are opening this Summit reflects the philosophy that I have as a regulator. I embrace open government, information sharing with all stakeholders, and a commitment to finding mutual interests. Vice Miniser Wei, I trust that we will bring dialogue to a new level this week and maintain an emphasis on a more comprehensive approach to product safety.

 

And once our agencies agree on certain rules and policies, we expect the companies we regulate to comply with them. And as CPSC’s chief regulator, I will ensure that our requirements are enforced vigorously and fairly when it comes to US manufacturers, importers, and distributors.

 

I look forward to learning more from our Chinese hosts about the steps taken to establish best practices for manufacturing, and the steps they are willing to take to ensure that makers and suppliers comply with new product safety standards. I am very encouraged to have learned that many of the best practices that CPSC has long endorsed for U.S. manufacturers have been incorporated into a new handbook for Chinese manufacturers.

 

This week holds promise for both of our delegations and both of our countries. The attention to product safety issues remains high with the public and media. Parents around the world continue to seek confidence in the marketplace and assurances that the products they buy for their children are safe.

 

Chinese manufacturers and suppliers and U.S. importers and distributors must be more committed than ever to building safety into their products and using best practices during manufacturing. I say this because the consequences that these companies face in dealing with our empowered enforcement agencies are more serious now than in the past if the public’s trust is violated.

 

Thank you for all the hard work everyone has put into organizing this Summit.

 

I look forward to working closely with you Vice Minister Wei and your delegation. And I assure you that my delegation is committed to robust discussions, productive working sessions, and outcomes that set a clear path forward over the next two years. A path that will bring us to our 4th United States-China Product Safety Summit in 2011, with consumers feeling more confident than ever in our collective efforts to keep them safe.