China is the EU’s 2nd largest trading partner, accounting for 8.8% of total trade in 2004. Food products and consumer goods such as electrical items, toys, household items and clothing, make up a large proportion of the EU’s imports from China. The Memorandum of Understanding agreed today is a voluntary agreement between legislators on food and non-food product safety, which aims to promote common interests and enhance the safety of products traded between the regions. It provides the basis for the establishment of a consultation and cooperation mechanism, which will help in reaching solutions to any trade problems and in forging a common view on safety standards. Through the agreement, DG Health and Consumer Protection and AQSIQ have committed to regular exchanges of information and the establishment of a series of joint initiatives to help safeguard consumers’ health and safety.
General Product Safety
In the area of non-food consumer goods, the agreement focuses on developing and improving communication channels between DG Health and Consumer Protection and AQSIQ, in order to raise the overall level of product safety. Among the areas where there is to be enhanced provision and exchange of information are: emerging issues related to health and safety; standardisation activities in product safety rules and procedures; market surveillance; border inspections; the enforcement of product safety legislation; risk assessment and risk mitigation; major product recall operations; and product testing. The Memorandum of Understanding also foresees appropriate training for technical and regulatory personnel in this field.
Food Safety and SPS
In 2004, the EU imported over €2 billion worth of Chinese agricultural goods, food and processed food, while exporting over €1 billion worth of these products to China – almost triple the 1997 figure. The aim of the Memorandum of Understanding is to generate reciprocal confidence and trust when it comes to trade in these products, through improved contact between the EU and Chinese authorities. Among the measures foreseen in the agreement are the timely notification of relevant information concerning agricultural or food products (particularly when there are problems), the establishment of SPS communication and consultation channels, the exchange of information on SPS issues, and regular meetings between EU health and consumer protection officials and those of AQSIQ when necessary.