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Commentary: Misunderstandings on Made-in-China products in Mattel incident
2007-09-24 08:29:17 Xinhua English

BEIJING, Sept. 24 (Xinhua) -- Executive vice-president of Mattel's global operations, Thomas Debrowski, had admitted on Friday that the vast majority of recalled Chinese-made toys were due to design flaws rather than the manufacturing errors of local Chinese manufacturers.

Mattel staged three separate recalls this summer including Barbie doll accessories and Fisher-Price units because of concerns about lead paint and magnets that could be swallowed.

He further apologized personally to the Chinese people and all of the customers who received toys.

There is an obvious misunderstanding on the Chinese-made products in the recall incident, when the label of "Made-in-China" was overemphasized as the core problem that resulted in the safety concern.

"The core problem for the recalled toys was the design flaw, instead of the manufacturers. The American toy firm ought to be responsible for the design flaws as well as the safety problems caused, rather than blaming the Chinese manufacturers," said Stefano Solo, an expert of the EU Consumer Affairs Commission.

According to a survey conducted by Canadian experts released early this month, up to 76 percent of the total 550 recall incidents since 1988 were due to the design flaws.

However, the inappropriate and one-sided expression of some news stories, such as "Mattel recalls Chinese-made toys," apparently caused the misunderstanding of the incident and blemished the image of Chinese-made products.

Although some of the toys with potential safety problems were made in China, design flaws rather than manufacturing errors have been the root cause of the problems. And the corresponding brand owners are thus to blame.

Now Mattel has eventually realized that dodging the design problems of its toys and diverting public attention to the Made-in-China toys will greatly damage its creditability and may lead to a greater loss in business.

The "Mattel incident" is not the first that has smeared the "Made-in-China" label, nor will it be the last. The safety problems of products has become a new form in the trade disputes between China and the United States. Statistics show that about 60 percent of the recalls staged in the United States in the first half of 2007 targeted "Made-in-China" goods, which involved a broad range of areas from pet food, toys to tires.

As the United States and China are the first and third largest traders in the world, the enterprises and departments concerned in both countries should seek to resolve problems through contacts and consultations on the basis of mutual benefit and common development, in a bid to supply global consumers with inexpensive goods.

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