Inaugural Consumer Product Safety Summit Links Canada, Mexico and U.S.

28 September 2011

This article contains excerpts from a press release published on the CPSC website entitled U.S., Canada and Mexico Join Forces to Strengthen Consumer Product Safety Across North America published on September 27, 2011.

Representatives of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Health Canada, and the Federal Agency of the United Mexican States (Profeco) agreed to promote “greater cooperation and engagement in ensuring the safety of products made and sold across North America” at the First North America Consumer Product Safety Summit held in Bethesda, MD on September 26th and 27th.

The three organizations, which hold jurisdiction over consumer products in their respective nations, came together to strengthen the protections for children and consumers throughout North America.

During a discussion on Private Sector Efforts on Standards Alignment, Carter Keithley, president of the Toy Industry Association (TIA), described the efforts made by the North American toy industry to harmonize toy safety standards across borders, emphasized the toy industry’s commitment to working closely with governing authorities to assure that children are safe from product hazards, and launched an appeal to actively look for areas in which safety regulations can be conformed. He pointed out areas in which U.S. and Canadian toy standards had diverged in recent years without adding to children’s safety.

“While it is industry’s responsibility to identify areas in which standards should be aligned, it is the responsibility of governments with authority over the standards to assure consistency,” said Keithley.

In response to questions, TIA’s president said he fully recognizes the difficulty of aligning standards among sovereign jurisdictions, but that government authorities must make a commitment to achieve alignment … and then ways can be found to accomplish it.

The Joint Agreement issued at the end of the Summit did identify several opportunities for collaboration:

consultation on proposed regulations and voluntary standards,
cooperation on risk assessment,
cooperation on import and market surveillance,
cooperation on training and outreach within and outside North America,
coordinated consumer awareness campaigns, and
consultation on potential joint recalls or corrective actions.

"We are facing common challenges and opportunities to promote product safety, and we can be more effective in protecting consumers in the United States and across North America through collaboration and being proactive," said CPSC's Chairman Inez Tenenbaum in a statement.

According to the CPSC, imports from Mexico and Canada account for the second and third largest shares, respectively, of imported consumer products likely to be under CPSC jurisdiction. Both countries share major land borders with the U.S. and products produced in or imported from outside North America to any of the three countries may easily find their way into another partner's jurisdiction.

"If products can be regulated in a harmonized manner and emerging hazards can be addressed swiftly, then consumers in all three countries can benefit,” said Tenenbaum.

Keithley applauded CPSC Chairman Tenenbaum for launching this initiative: “Having sound and mutually consistent consumer product safety standards in Canada, Mexico and the U.S. has never been more important than it is right now.”

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