The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC”) just announced a giant leap forward in its effort to protect U.S. consumers against defective products manufactured in China. To combat the increasing frequency with which hazardous Chinese consumer products enter the United States, on January 10, 2011, the CPSC opened an office in China. The CPSC hopes that this new office will promote more effective communication with its Chinese counterpart – the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of the People’s Republic of China (“AQSIQ”) – allowing the CPSC to adopt a proactive approach to product safety with respect to Chinese imports. The agency’s proactive and preventative approach to product safety should also benefit U.S.-based retailers who often bear the expense of recalling defective products that originate in China, yet are left without recourse against the products’ Chinese manufacturers.

While the CPSC’s China office represents the agency’s first official foreign office, it opens after years of cooperation between the United States and China. In 2004, the countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding under which the CPSC and the AQSIQ committed to the “[e]xchange of scientific, technical, and regulatory information, to help insure the quality, safety, and proper labeling of [specifically identified] consumer products.” (The identified products include clothing, textiles and toys; hazardous products such as cigarette and multipurpose lighters; home appliances; hazardous chemical consumer products; and bicycle helmets.) The Memorandum of Understanding further allows the CPSC to inspect Chinese manufacturing facilities, and to train Chinese manufacturers on the legal requirements for importing products into the U.S. Since signing the agreement, the CPSC has collaborated with AQSIQ to conduct inspections, to present informational programs, and to develop product safety summit meetings.

The CPSC’s China office is located in the U.S. embassy in Beijing, and is staffed by two people. The CPSC has no current plans to open other foreign offices, but emphasizes the continued importance in the agency’s international presence.

Content for this post was also provided by Bridget Calhoun and Natalia Medley in the Washington, DC office of Crowell & Moring.