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CPSC-AQSIQ-EC Trilateral Summit - Friday, June 29, 2012, Capitol Hill, Bethesda, Maryland

September 17, 2012

Good morning.

Vice Minister Sun and Commissioner Dalli, I want to thank you once again for travelling to the United States and leading each of your delegations in our third Trilateral Summit.

The members of the CPSC, AQSIQ, and EC delegations made valuable contributions to establishing a framework for achieving a seamless surveillance system-from the factory to the front door of consumer's homes.

The format for this Summit was unique in that it afforded our operational staff an unprecedented opportunity to work through practical issues that can improve our already very close cooperation.

After two days in the same room together, I am sure our staffs have a much better understanding of the way each agency works, how we can improve cooperation, and what challenges need to be overcome.

It is a testament to years of very intense work, confidence building, and political will that we could host a Summit where the focus is on teamwork. If we can sustain this dynamic, and harness it in how we do our work, our consumers will be very well served.

For example, staff worked out a process by which we can more closely align our procedures for conveying case specific information.

Staff also examined how we identify consumer products and how coordinating on product identification systems can add tools to our surveillance tool boxes and improve cooperation in product surveillance work.

I believe that the focus of our Summit has been right in line with my vision for the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Enhanced cooperation and more effective surveillance will help advance our regulatory approach of being proactive, rather being reactive.

If we exchange port and marketplace surveillance information faster, and can prevent consumer exposure to noncompliant and dangerous products, then our collective efforts will be a victory for consumers in each of our jurisdictions.

It is for this reason that I believe we need to be committed to implementing our Points of Consensus in the months and years to come.

During my remaining time this morning, I would like to talk about the importance of CPSC's import surveillance program, and a concept that I first discussed in Hong Kong in January called "Safety by Design."

Let me start with import surveillance. I know all of you just heard from Carol Cave about areas of opportunity and challenges as we work to deepen our communications on imports of concern.

The Import Surveillance team that Carol leads is making a vital contribution to CPSC's strategic goals of demonstrating a commitment to prevention and being decisive in our response.

The unprecedented cooperation we are receiving from the Department of Homeland Security is leading to success at the ports.

Toys, teddy bears, hair dryers, Christmas lights, extension cords, jewelry, and fireworks that are noncompliant or dangerous are being caught by CBP inspectors and CPSC investigators.

These are consumer products that never reached store shelves and never reached the hands of consumers-and therefore never injured anyone.

By being proactive at the ports, CPSC and Homeland Security staff stopped 6.5 million units of about 1,700 different children's products in 2010 and 2011.

Between October and December of 2011, more than 2,900 imported shipments were screened at ports of entry into the United States. These efforts prevented more than 647,000 units of about 240 different noncomplying products from reaching consumers.

Topping the list of products stopped were children's products containing levels of lead exceeding the federal limits, toys with small parts that present a choking hazard for children younger than 3, and toys and child care articles with banned phthalates.

Other items that were stopped included defective and dangerous hair dryers, lamps and holiday lights.

We will be publicly announcing the results of our surveillance efforts from January through April of this year. But I can share with you now that an additional 368,000 units of noncompliant and hazardous imported products were stopped from reaching store shelves or the hands of American consumers.

Our import surveillance program is making a positive difference. This is because for the first time we have gained real-time access to data from our Department of Homeland Security's commercial targeting system.

This database tracks the manifests of shipments headed from ports around the world to our shores.

Now we can anticipate when and where a shipment of interest will arrive.

We have also implemented a pilot risk assessment methodology aimed at early detection and targeting of high risk products and repeat offenders. I believe this will make CPSC even more effective in using our limited resources.

It is my hope that we can find an agreed upon solution for using each of our respective systems for the benefit of each of our jurisdictions.

I would now like to transition from talking about stopping noncompliant imports, to talking about ways that importers and manufacturers can ensure that they meet our rules and requirements by ensuring that all products are designed safely.

In 2008, two researchers from Canada published a paper analyzing about 600 toys recalls announced in the United States over a 20-year period.

The researchers found that "the number of defects attributable to design issues was much higher than those attributable to manufacturing problems."

In fact, 71 percent of the toy recalls that they analyzed were related to a design problem.

The authors stated that, "A design problem would result in an unsafe toy irrespective of where it was manufactured. On the other hand, a manufacturing defect arises because of manufacturer errors or negligence…If a toy's design is good, it does not necessarily mean that the toys produced will be good. By contrast, if the design is poor, the toys manufactured will definitely be faulty."

The researchers made two suggestions: first, ensure the accountability of companies to improve their product designs; and second, encourage the development of global standards to enhance product safety.

At CPSC, we already know that the standards have been enhanced. So, the focus needs to be on building safety into the design of consumer products.

This is especially important for certain industries, like toy makers, because the offerings of new designs to distributors and customers change so frequently.

As my friends from AQSIQ have heard me say many times, imports from China to the United States did not slow down in 2007 after the "year of the recall," and they continue to increase today.

I have shown many people in China a chart proving my point.

The vast majority of toys, apparel, cigarette lighters, and fireworks have been and continue to be imported from China.

But whether a consumer product is made in China, Europe, or the United States, it is so important the final design be right, every time.

Before manufacturing and assembly starts, it is vital that companies design out potential health and safety risks in each and every model.

Here are some examples of what I mean.

If a company is making electronic toys that use coin cell/button batteries, I believe that the design must ensure that children cannot access those batteries.

Coin cell/button batteries in toys and in certain adult products re-emerged last year as a public health issue in the United States, due to a rise in incidents of children swallowing these toxic batteries.

There is actually international cooperation aimed at addressing this hazard. The World Health Organization is sponsoring a global health and safety conference later this year, and for one of the symposia, they are looking for research papers from engineers with ideas to reduce child exposure to button batteries.

In fact, CPSC is the chair of the committee putting together the button battery symposium.

Hopefully the ideas generated by the W.H.O. conference can help industry develop even better designs for electronic products used in each of our jurisdictions.

Another important design factor is the metals and chemicals used in plastics, surface coatings, and substrates.

"Safety by design" means ensuring that specs are very clear about not including lead, cadmium, antimony, chromium, and other toxic metals above the legal limits.

And for toys and childcare articles intended for the U.S. marketplace there cannot be more than 1,000 parts per million of six types of banned phthalates.

As I have talked about during my travels to China and Europe, adhering to the ASTM F963 Toy Safety Standard and the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act is good for business and good for the health and safety of children.

Another key to a safe design is proper age grading.

Parents and grandparents certainly have an obligation to provide age appropriate toys to young children. But when consumers look at the age grading on the package, it should reflect who the toy was designed for, as well as the best science in age determinations.

We continue to find small parts violations and choking hazards in toys seized at import or that are recalled after they make it into the marketplace.

I believe that "safety by design," can be a winning approach for many of the industries to do business in each of our jurisdictions.

If companies around the world aim for the highest level of safety in their design specifications, while CPSC, AQSIQ, and the EC keep working to promote best manufacturing practices, we can achieve something great.

The concept of "safety by design" and having a strong import and marketplace surveillance program all contribute to CPSC's strategic approach aimed at promoting prevention.

Prevention must win out over reaction.

At a time of high expectations from consumers and a finite set of resources, we must pursue this approach in order to advance product safety for those who we serve.

Vice Minister Sun, Commissioner Dalli, and officials with each of the delegations, it was an honor to host this year's Trilateral Summit.

I trust that we can continue to make progress on our areas of mutual interest and continue to establish a global product safety system that is built to last.

Thank you.

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