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Economic Ministers Meeting
August 26, 2007
Product safety on agenda

Southeast Asian countries and China agreed to strengthen product standards and safety, economic ministers said Sunday. The move follows recalls of several tainted Chinese products from international markets.

Chinese Commerce Minister Bo Xilai also defended the quality of Chinese goods, saying 99 percent of his country's exports to the U.S. and Japan pass quality controls and adhere to global quality standards.

A joint statement issued by economic ministers from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China on Sunday, at the end of their annual consultations, said product quality and food safety are common challenges faced by every country. All parties should actively cooperate in improving risk control and ensuring quality, it added.

"The ministers agreed to urge relevant government agencies to properly deal with product quality-related cases by strengthening consultations with the view to protecting the safety and health of consumers while not impeding bilateral trade and economic cooperation," it said.

At a joint news conference by the ministers, Bo pointed out that 50 percent of products manufactured in China are made by foreign enterprises, and more than 60 percent of exports are made and inspected according to standards set by foreign importers and buyers.

"In the past 29 years, the annual growth rate of Chinese exports is 17 percent and this itself shows a high degree of recognition of product quality of China by other countries," Bo said. Nevertheless, if even only 0.1 percent of Chinese products are problematic, his government will seriously address the matter, he added.

China is ASEAN's fourth major trading partner after the U.S., the European Union and Japan. Chinese foreign direct investment in ASEAN nations reached $936.9 million in 2006.

ASEAN and China signed a trade in goods agreement in 2004 and a trade in services deal in January 2007. An investment agreement is still under negotiation as part of steps to realize the ASEAN China Free Trade Area.

As the two sides begin to fully implement the free-trade agreements, they would like to establish common standards and technical requirements for the equal treatment of products, ASEAN Secretary General Ong Keng Yong said. Associated Press reports

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