BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) -- Top EU and U.S. consumer safety officials teamed up on Thursday to launch a joint initiative aimed at making Chinese manufacturers and regulators improve toy and other product safety standards.
Nancy Nord, chair of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, said she and her European counterpart, EU Consumer Protection Commissioner Meglena Kuneva, agreed to work more closely together to push China to better meet Western safety standards.
''We are now planning to go to China together with an overarching message about the importance that these issues play in every aspect of the manufacturing process,'' Nord told reporters after her talks with Kuneva.
Kuneva said the two would seek closer cooperation with China in talks later this spring and at a meeting already scheduled in Brussels in September.
Kuneva said the teaming up of EU and U.S. safety officials is meant to send ''a strong political signal'' to Beijing that the two -- China's top export markets -- will push hard to prevent further mass recalls of toys or other products that have caused widespread safety concerns of late.
''We will continue to cooperate very, very closely and act,'' Kuneva said.
The quality of Beijing's exports came under international scrutiny in March 2007 after dog and cat deaths in North America were linked to a pet food ingredient made in China. Concerns grew after potentially dangerous toxins and chemicals were found in products ranging from toothpaste to fish.
America's Mattel Inc. then recalled more than 21 million Chinese-made toys worldwide. Products including Barbie doll accessories and toy cars were pulled off shelves because of concerns about lead paint or tiny detachable magnets that could be swallowed by children.
Nord said that the United States also was keen to work with the EU to forge a common global set of product safety standards, which would make it easier for manufacturers and exporters to adhere to.
''That is something that we need to encourage,'' Nord said. ''We need to look for every opportunity to bring our systems closer together. That is for the benefit of consumers; it's certainly for the benefit of product manufacturers.''
The two also agreed to bolster coordinating recalls and alerts of products.
Kuneva has been pushing Washington for improved links to bolster the monitoring of China's toy manufacturing sector to avoid further safety recalls and restore consumer confidence.
She has been critical of her U.S. counterparts for failing to share information regarding the toy recalls.