New Delhi: India on Monday relaxed a ban on the import of toys from China to allow shipments certified by global safety agencies, weeks after the government had imposed wide-ranging curbs for six months citing public safety.
In February, India’s trade minister said the move complied with World Trade Organization rules, but it drew strong criticism from China and sparked further worries about protectionism as the impact of the global financial crisis spreads.
In a government statement, India said imports of Chinese toys would now be allowed if they were accompanied by certificates from globally accepted consumer safety bodies such as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).
Indian newspapers reported that prices of toys in local markets spiked after the ban, as a majority came from China, a key supplier of toys, apparel and food to much of the world, but which has faced a wave of complaints in recent years.
Most recently, at least six children died and almost 30,000 fell ill in China after consuming milk powder tainted with melamine, a chemical used to make plastics.
In 2007, the world’s leading toymaker Mattel recalled more than 21 million Chinese-made toys worldwide due to excessive levels of lead paint and other unsafe components.
The Toy Association of India has said it had urged the government to raise import taxes on Chinese toys but did not expect a ban.
Large job losses in key sectors of the Indian economy such as construction, exports and manufacturing as the global economic crisis hits domestic growth have triggered calls for measures to protect Indian industry and jobs.
But finance minister Pranab Mukherjee told a labour conference last month that India was worried over growing signs of protectionism and would oppose such moves at global forums.