The key event was China’s agreement to ban lead paint on toys exported to the US. The deal was struck between American and Chinese officials in Washington in September during a product safety summit.
There must have been considerable pressure to come up with that deal because a week earlier, Mattel issued a third global recall of its toys – for unsafe levels of lead paint, naturally.
Officials on both sides were raising the pitch of their rhetoric: New York Senator Charles Schumer raged that China has “virtually no regulations,” while Wei Chuanzhong, vice minister of the General Administration for Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (GAQSIQ), claimed that the safety scandal was a form of “trade protectionism.” He insisted that the toy recalls were caused by Mattel’s own poorly designed products and overzealous tightening of its safety standards.
In September, Wei’s department refused US and Canadian shipments of frozen pork, claiming they contained banned additives. This followed earlier rejections of US soybeans (allegedly tainted) and nearly 300 American pacemakers (failed safety tests).
All this was shored up by a public relations exercise conducted over airwaves when China Central Television launched a multipart series titled “Believe in Made in China” on August 19.
In the end though, even Wei admitted that the safety summit was productive and that he looked forward to “sincere and close cooperation” between the two countries.