WASHINGTON — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has signed a memorandum of understanding with China´s National Development and Reform Commission, agreeing to cooperate on motor vehicle safety and standards enforcement issues.
The new agreement comes in the middle of the recall of 255,000 allegedly defective Chinese light truck tires manufactured by Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber Co. Ltd. and imported into the U.S. by Foreign Tire Sales Inc. of Union, N.J.
NHTSA Administrator Nicole Nason signed the agreement in a ceremony Sept. 12 with NDRC Vice Chairman Zhang Guobao and Chen Bin, director general of the NDRC Industry Department. According to the text of the document, its purpose is to strengthen cooperation and communication between China and the U.S. in the areas of improvements and other developments in motor vehicle technical regulation and safety.
This cooperation will include information exchange, the agreement states, and will cover areas such as development of technical regulations and standards, dissemination of consumer information, enforcement of safety standards and new car assessment.
Among other things, the agreement calls for:
— joint meetings held at least annually and alternating between the U.S. and China;
— joint encouragement and promotion of standards harmonization, consistent with the safety and fuel economy requirements of both countries;
— shared research and development plans in motor vehicle technical regulation and safety, including exchange of experts;
— cooperation in fuel economy issues; and
— joint analyses to assist in the development of safety and fuel economy standards.
The agreement may be terminated by either country on 60 days´ written notice.
"It´s always good that they´re talking and looking toward ways to cooperate," a spokesman for the Rubber Manufacturers Association said. "Better cooperation between NHTSA and agencies of the Chinese government is a good thing."
The FTS/Hangzhou recall, which began Aug. 9 and continues until Oct. 25, so far has recovered about 4,000 tires from dealers-about as many as expected-but only 282 from consumers, according to FTS President Richard Kuskin.
"Frankly, I´m confused by this," said Kuskin. "Our video release has been seen by 41 million people, we´ve had ads in newspapers with total circulation of 5 million, and our Web site has received more than 500,000 hits." Details of the recall are also on the NHTSA Web site.
In the midst of the bad publicity caused by recalls of Chinese tires, toys, pet food and other products, both China and the U.S. have mounted public efforts to identify and correct safety problems with Chinese imports.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission sponsored the U.S.-Sino Consumer Product Safety Summit in Washington Sept. 10-11. The summit was held amid criticism that the agreement signed two years ago between the CPSC and the Chinese government had not prevented the importation of unsafe Chinese products.
Meanwhile, the Bush administration created an Interagency Working Group on Import Safety in July to address import safety issues in a coordinated fashion between all U.S. government agencies.
On Sept. 10, the working group announced it had completed a strategic framework for its operations. "We must continue to be vigilant, ensure that our food supply remains the safest in the world, and never forget the safety of the products on America´s shelves is of critical importance," said Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez in announcing the strategic framework.