Copyright The Washington Post
JAKARTA, Indonesia — After hearing about dangerous Chinese products
elsewhere, Indonesia this summer began testing popular Chinese-made
items on its own store shelves. What it found has added to the list of
horrors: mercury-laced makeup that turns skin black, dried fruit spiked
with industrial chemicals, carcinogenic children’s candy.
The Chinese government called up in August saying it had a possible
solution. Husniah Rubiana Thamrin Akib, head of Indonesia’s top food and
drug safety agency, was pleased and welcomed her counterparts to her office.
Days after the Philippines announced in July its concerns that White
Rabbit candy produced in China was contaminated with formaldehyde, the
Chinese government enacted a recall of banana chips from the Philippines.
But according to Husniah, the Chinese suggested Indonesia lower its
safety standards. Husniah said she was “very upset and very surprised.”
“I said to them, ‘I respect your standards for your country. I hope you
respect ours,’ ” Husniah said.
In dealing with product safety complaints from the United States, China
has sought to convince a concerned American public that it has reformed
and is doing all it can to ensure the safety of its products. But its
dealings with other, less-developed countries or those in vulnerable
political positions are a different story, according to Husniah and
officials in the Philippines and Malaysia.
Indonesian officials accuse China of pushing shoddy products and
inferior standards on poor countries that have no choice but to depend
on it for cheap goods, aid and investment. They say that China, in
closed-door meetings, has refused to share basic information, attempted
to horse-trade by insisting on discussing disparate issues as part of a
single negotiation and all but threatened retaliatory trade actions. The
Chinese respond that their products have been the victim of unfair trade
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