China to tighten food, drug controls for U.S. imports
China has agreed to allow U.S. inspectors into the country to monitor the quality of food, medical devices and drugs produced for export to resolve U.S. concerns about safety in the wake of a series of product recalls this year, according to news reports from Beijing.
In return, the United States will make it easier for Chinese tour groups to obtain visas and enter the country.
The product-safety agreements were signed by Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt, who headed President Bush’s Import Safety working group that developed recommendations to improve safety compliance for importers and their overseas suppliers.
Under the new arrangement, Chinese exporters of food, feed, medical devices and drugs must register with the Chinese government and be certified that they meet U.S. standards.
The two sides agreed to better information sharing. Within 24 to 48 hours of determining a health risk, the governments pledged to inform the other and provide necessary tracking information. The measure is similar to recent agreements to cooperate on intellectual property rights enforcement.
U.S. inspectors will have greater access to production facilities, but will also spend a large portion of their time educating and training their Chinese counterparts on how to spot problems and get industry to adopt good safety regimes.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce announced its support for the bilateral agreements on food and product safety.