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Brussels, 16 January 2006

Commissioner Kyprianou visits China to discuss avian flu, influenza preparedness and product safety

On 16-21 January 2006 European Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner Markos Kyprianou will visit the People’s Republic of China and Hong Kong. He will in particular represent the European Commission at the “International Pledging Conference on Avian and Human Influenza” in Beijing on January 18th (see IP/06/29). The Commission is co-hosting the ministerial conference with the World Bank and the government of China. Commissioner Kyprianou will also visit a medical laboratory specialising in avian flu and SARS, and the infectious diseases’ ward of a hospital. He shall also visit a toy factory and address EU-China co-operation in product safety, in particular regarding toys, safety, with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with Chinese authorities.

On the eve of his trip, Commissioner Kyprianou said: “Better co-ordination at the global level is necessary to tackle the spread of avian flu and any possible outbreak of a human influenza pandemic. Asia, and in particular China, is at the forefront in this fight. Improved surveillance, transparency and technical co-operation within the region and with the EU is key to win this battle. But most exposed and less affluent countries also need financial support, and the EU is ready to play its part. My visit to China will also provide the opportunity to address product safety issues: nearly half of the dangerous consumer products found in the EU are imported from China. This has to change, and we are joining forces with the Chinese government and industry to better protect European and Chinese consumers.”

Boosting co-operation with China

During his visit, Commissioner Kyprianou will meet the Prime Minister of China, Wen Jiabao, as well as the Chinese Minister for Health Mr Gao Qiang, the Chinese Minister of Agriculture Mr. Du Qinglin and Mr Li Changjiang of the Chinese governmental agency for Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ). On January 19th, in Guangzhou, he will visit a toy factory and address the issue of product safety.

On 20 January in Hong Kong he will meet the Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food, Dr York Chow, the Director of Health Dr Lam Ping Yan and the controller of the Centre for Health Protection Dr Py Leung. He will visit Hong Kong’s Public Health Laboratory Service of the Centre for Health Protection and the Princess Margaret Hospital.

The pledging conference

At the “International Pledging Conference on Avian and Human Pandemic Influenza” in Beijing on 17-18 January, the European Commission will pledge its external response to the threat of avian flu (see IP/06/29). The conference’s aim is to mobilize and co-ordinate the financial support from donors to boost the response to avian influenza and potential flu pandemic at the national, regional and global level. The lion’s share of the pledged monies will support integrated national response strategies in third countries in addition to the considerable own efforts these countries are making. Commissioner Kyprianou will formally announce the Commission’s pledge, coming from the external relations budget and the European Development Fund, on behalf of the Commission .

During the conference, the Commissioner will stress the need for increased monitoring of high-risk areas, surveillance of domestic poultry and wild birds, and bio-security in poultry farms. He will underline key measures to be taken in terms of networking of laboratories, co-operation between veterinary and public health authorities, exchange of information between countries, and contingency planning – all of this converging towards a co-ordinated response at regional level and with other regions of the world including the EU.

Product safety

During his visit Commissioner Kyprianou will sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the Chinese governmental agency for Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ). The MoU was initialled in Brussels on November 11th, 2005. It aims to establish better communication and collaboration between EU and Chinese authorities on general product safety, food safety, and sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) issues. These will also be discussed during his visit to a Chinese toy factory and meeting with Chinese and European industry.

Better co-operation with Chinese authorities and industry is essential to ensure product safety, as 50% of dangerous consumer products found in the EU are imported from China. RAPEX is the EU rapid alert system for all dangerous consumer products, with the exception of food, pharmaceutical and medical products.

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