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China defends exports in talks with U.S.

Chinese President Hu Jintao, on the defensive over recalls of tainted toothpaste, pet food and toys, told U.S. President George Bush on Thursday that Beijing was stepping up product safety inspections.

Chinese President Hu Jintao, on the defensive over recalls of tainted toothpaste, pet food and toys, told U.S. President George Bush on Thursday that Beijing is stepping up product safety inspections.

Hu was the first to raise the sensitive subject about recent recalls that have stained the "Made in China" label. Bush expressed America's concern about the safety of imported products and stressed to Hu that safety concerns did not amount to trade protectionism.

"The president was quite articulate about product safety, and I appreciated his comments," Bush said after his meeting with Hu on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in Sydney, Australia.

China has acknowledged that some manufacturers have cut corners and used substandard materials but said the problem involves a relatively small portion of the nation's factories. Hu told Bush that the government has set up an agency to oversee the quality and safety of exports and that officials responsible for wrongdoing have been held accountable.

At a joint news conference with the summit host, Australian Prime Minister John Howard, Hu said his government is taking the product safety issue seriously.

"The Chinese side is willing and ready to work together with the international community to step up co-operation in quality inspections and examinations and further deepen mutually beneficial economic cooperation and trade," said Hu, speaking through a translator.

On Aug. 1, Mattel recalled about 1.5 million preschool toys for high lead levels. The company subsequently issued a second larger recall of more than 18 million toys on Aug. 14, saying magnets embedded in the toys along withhigh lead levels posed a safety threat to young children.On Tuesday, Mattel ordered a third recall of about 844,000 toys for unsafe lead levels. All the toys were made in China.

Other recent recalls of made-in-China toys include Thomas the Train products and Toys "R" Us art kits for unsafe lead levels.

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