New Delhi: India’s government lifted a ban Monday on imports of Chinese toys that had stoked trade tensions between the world’s two biggest emerging economies.
But it imposed strict demands for product safety guarantees.
India announced the six-month ban in January, prompting Beijing to warn that “bilateral trade relations could be seriously impacted”.
The Indian trade ministry, which had made the decision on the grounds of “public health and safety”, announced Chinese toys could be imported -- but needed to be certified as safe according to international standards.
Chinese toy imports “shall be permitted” if accompanied by certificates showing they “conform to standards prescribed” by safety bodies such as the International Organisation for Standardization (ISO) or the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), the trade ministry said in a statement.
The imports will have to be accompanied by certificates from laboratories accredited to the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation, the ministry further stipulated.
Chinese toys such as dolls, cars, trains and puzzles make up more than 60% of India’s $500 million toy market and the ban sent prices of toys soaring in local markets as imported supplies started running out.
Some Indian analysts had seen the ban as a move to protect India’s struggling toy industry, which employs some two million workers, and the media had dubbed the row the “toy trade war”.
The Indian toy sector said it had been pushing New Delhi for higher import tariffs on Chinese toys, which are cheaper than those made locally, but not a full-scale ban.
China had warned India to take “cautious and prudent trade remedy measures” at a time when “the world economy faces grim challenges”.
But India said the toy ban complied with World Trade Organisation rules and would not be lifted until the government was “satisfied” about the safety of the Chinese products.
China’s toy industry has come under close scrutiny since millions of goods were recalled globally last year amid fears they were made with toxic lead paints or had design flaws.
Thousands of Chinese toy factories have closed because of tighter safety restrictions and falling demand amid the widening global financial crisis.
India’s toy ban came amid mounting trade frictions between the Asian neighbours. China is India’s largest trading partner while India is China’s 10th biggest trading partner.
Aside from the toy ban, China’s commerce ministry has complained that India has launched 17 trade investigations since October into Chinese products, including 10 anti-dumping probes, and curbed imports of iron and steel, chemicals and textiles from China.
Various countries have been moving to shield domestic industries against the worldwide slowdown but India’s commerce minister Kamal Nath has insisted New Delhi opposes any form of trade protectionism.