China Bars Exports by 750 Toy Makers
BEIJING, Nov. 1 — Chinese regulators said Thursday that they had suspended the export licenses of more than 750 toy companies because of quality control problems, according to the state-controlled media.
The government said an additional 690 toy factories in southern China, the world’s largest toy manufacturing region, had been ordered to renovate or improve their facilities.
The move was announced just days after American legislators moved to strengthen consumer protections and impose tougher penalties on companies that sell tainted or hazardous goods, including goods imported from China.
This year, European Union officials warned China that they would take strong action if it did not improve the quality and safety of the consumer goods it exports, particularly toys.
Toy industry officials in the United States hailed China’s announcement.
“China is living up to its word to improve product quality and product safety,” said Frank W. Clarke, a spokesman for the Toy Industry Association in New York, which represents some of the world’s biggest toy makers. “This will be reassuring to consumers to see that China is taking action.”
The toy industry has been rocked this year by a series of recalls involving millions of toys made in China, many of which were found to contain high levels of toxic lead paint.
The Chinese government crackdown on toy makers is not expected to significantly affect the coming holiday season because most of those toys, the vast majority of which are made in China, have already been produced and shipped to American ports and will soon be stocked on retailer shelves.
But the regulatory moves could hurt toy makers next year, and possibly upset their extensive supply chain, even though the suspensions directly affect only a small portion of the more than 5,000 toy makers believed to be operating in southern China.
Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois and one of the leaders behind legislation to strengthen consumer protections, said China’s move to suspend licenses was not enough. He called for the United States and China to come to an agreement that would put American product safety inspectors working in China, before faulty goods could be exported.
“Simply reacting to problems doesn’t solve a crisis,” Mr. Durbin said in a statement issued Thursday morning. “More needs to be done.”
Despite the announcement of the license suspensions, Chinese regulators said 99 percent of toy exports in southern Guangdong Province, near Hong Kong, met quality standards.
But those figures seemed contradictory; regulators in Guangdong said that they had visited over 1,700 facilities and that 764, more than a third, had their licenses revoked. Nearly as many were ordered to bring their factories up to quality standards.
For months, China’s top quality inspection agency — the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine — has insisted that the same percentage of the country’s exports met quality standards and were safe.
Chinese regulators also said recently that the country’s toy exports were continuing to boom this year, according to a report by Reuters.
Trade statistics through August showed that American imports of toys continued to grow steadily, despite the recalls, though those statistics may reflect a period long before news of the major recalls began to spread around the globe.
China has also been stung by criticism this year of other faulty products, including tainted pet food ingredients, toxic toothpaste and seafood laced with harmful chemicals.
The government in Beijing has promised to overhaul its food and drug regulations, weed out fraudulent companies and arrest corrupt officials and businessmen.
On Monday, China said it had arrested 774 people involved in producing substandard or harmful food. And on Wednesday, the government passed a new food safety law.
Now, Chinese regulators are vowing to crack down on unsavory producers of one of the nation’s most important exports: toys. Regulators in Beijing are promising to step up safety checks, a huge task considering China’s large and growing trade volumes, and its limited and often ineffectual corps of police officers and inspectors.