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US seeks Beijing's help on Chinese drywall firms

by Staff Writers
Shanghai (AFP) Oct 26, 2010
The top US product safety official urged Beijing on Tuesday to press state-owned firms to help Americans fix homes that have been damaged by toxic drywall made in China.

Inez Tenenbaum, head of the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, asked her Chinese counterpart to help call to account producers of drywall found to emit dangerous levels of sulphur, which could corrode wiring and pipes.

"Chinese drywall is an example of a complicated issue in the United States where we are hopeful that the Chinese government will use its influence with state-owned companies to help us reach a fair outcome for everyone involved," she told a joint news conference after meeting EU and Chinese officials.

Tenenbaum spoke alongside European Union Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy John Dalli and Zhi Shuping, China's quality supervision minister, at the end of the trilateral meetings in Shanghai on product safety.

The three parties said they had agreed to share more information and identify areas where product safety standards can be brought closer in line.

One manufacturer, German-Chinese joint venture Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co, has agreed to help repair 300 homes in four southern US states as part of a pilot project to help affected homeowners, Tenenbaum said.

Tenenbaum said there were some encouraging signs at Tuesday's meeting that Beijing would help bring Chinese producers to the table to talk about helping US homeowners.

"What we need is (the commerce ministry) to let the manufacturers know that it is to their advantage to come to the meeting," she said.

Homes built between 2005 and 2009 chiefly in southern US states were most acutely affected, thanks to the large amount of Chinese drywall imported to help rebuilding efforts after hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

There have been over 3,000 complaints about dangerous drywall in the United States alone.

In January the US government warned that metal corrosion, blackening of copper electrical wiring, or "confirmed markings of Chinese origin" could be indicators of a problem.

earlier related report
US monitoring in case of China rare earth cuts: White House
Washington (AFP) Oct 26, 2010 - The United States said Tuesday it was checking to see if China was cutting off rare earths exports to US companies but had not reached a conclusion on the matter yet.

"We're monitoring to see whether or not what is happening on the ground is reflected in those reports," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs. "I don't think there's any update past some of those reports from last week."

China last week denied a report in The New York Times that it had halted some rare earth shipments to the United States in response to a US probe into alleged Chinese subsidies for its green technology sector.

Rare earths -- a group of 17 elements -- are used in high-tech products ranging from flat-screen televisions to lasers to hybrid cars, and China controls more than 95 percent of the global market.

China has cut rare earth exports by five to 10 percent a year since 2006 as demand and prices soar.

Tokyo has accused China of restricting rare earths shipments to Japanese firms, amid a bitter spat between Asia's top two economies sparked by a maritime incident in disputed waters six weeks ago.

Beijing has previously denied any embargo, but a Japanese trade ministry survey released this month found that all 31 Japanese companies handling rare earths had reported disruption to shipments.

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Time to look beyond Chinese rare earths, says EU trade boss
Brussels (AFP) Oct 26, 2010
European Union trade commissioner Karel De Gucht on Tuesday urged global partners to diversify mining sources for prized rare earths as a battle with China deepened over scarce supplies. De Gucht spoke out as a row that began between China and Japan over access to 17 essential minerals used in high-tech products ranging from flat-screen televisions to hybrid cars threatened to turn into a wo ... read more

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