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Chinese premier pledges to improve safety of exports

China will do more to ensure the safety of its products following the discovery last year of export goods laced with potentially harmful chemicals, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said Wednesday.

China will do more to ensure the safety of its products following the discovery last year of export goods laced with potentially harmful chemicals, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said Wednesday.

A paramilitary police officer tries to prevent photos being taken as he helps escort people from Beijing's Tiananmen Square before the opening ceremony of the National People's Congress Wednesday. ((Greg Baker/Associated Press))

Wen also affirmed that Taiwan must recognize it is part of China — a demand made in the wake of a looming referendum about the island joining the United Nations.

At the opening of the National People's Congress, China's parliament, Wen referred to a number of crises involving contaminated and shoddy Chinese goods.

As the world's biggest exporter, he said, China must do everything it can to protect its reputation as a country that makes safe products.

Wen said China's prosperity relies on its exports and vowed that food and product safety testing methods and requirements will meet international standards.

"It is imperative that the people feel confident about the safety of food and other consumer goods and that our exports have a good reputation."

Wen said measures will include creating or updating 7,700 national safety standards.

Wen also said co-ordination between law enforcement and prosecutors needs to be improved to increase penalties for guilty producers.

During his two-hour speech at the Great Hall of the People, Wen told the delegates that further economic reform and trade are vital to China's future.

"Reform and opening up is a major and crucial choice that is shaping the destiny of contemporary China," he said.

For more than a decade, China has enjoyed double-digit growth from its production of goods and food exports.

But over the past year, Chinese products, ranging from toys, to toothpastes to pet foods, were discovered to be laced with harmful chemicals, creating an export crisis that tainted China's reputation.

Despite the product scares, China's total exports last year were up 25 per cent, pushing the total to just over $1 trillion US.

Taiwan's reunification 'inevitable'

Meanwhile, Wen restated China's opposition of any plans for Taiwan's secession.

The premier said China and Taiwan can negotiate any matter as long as the island recognizes it is part of China.

"We firmly oppose Taiwan independence secessionist activities, and will never allow anyone to separate Taiwan from the motherland in any guise, or by any means," he said.

On March 22, the Taiwanese will vote on the question: Do you want to join the United Nations as Taiwan?

China, Russia and the U.S. — Taiwan's ally and major weapons provider —  have condemned the upcoming vote.

In his speech, Wen never mentioned the democratic choice Taiwan faces, instead insisting Taiwan's destiny is to rejoin China.

"Reunification of the two sides is inevitable in the course of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation," he said. With the efforts of Chinese people at home and overseas, the great cause of China's reunification will surely be achieved."

With files from the Associated Press

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