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China insists tires in U.S. recall meet safety standards

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BEIJING (AP) _ Chinese government inspectors have concluded tires made by a Chinese company that is the subject of a huge U.S. recall meet official U.S. safety standards, news reports said Wednesday.

Officials issued the decision after inspecting the Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber Co. and testing three tires at a government laboratory, China Daily, the Oriental Morning Post and other newspapers reported.

``Our sample tests on the tires show they're qualified to be sold in the U.S.,'' said Wang Xin, an official of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, quoted by China Daily.

U.S. authorities ordered a recall of up to 450,000 tires made by Hangzhou Zhongce after its U.S. distributor said they lacked a key component.

China has been hit by an avalanche of recalls and warnings in the United States and elsewhere targeting Chinese exports, including drug-laced seafood, toothpaste made with a toxic chemical and children's toys with lead paint.

Beijing has launched a sweeping effort to repair the reputation of its export industries and protect access to foreign markets, promising more aggressive safety enforcement.

But the government also has challenged some warnings, saying most Chinese goods have no problems and stressing some other countries have a poorer product liability record.

The Hangzhou Zhongce case has received unusually prominent coverage by Chinese news media because the company is the country's second-biggest tire manufacturer. Many companies involved in other recalls are small and less well-known.

Tires tested by the AQSIQ were found to meet U.S. standards, known as Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 119, or FMVSS 119, the Oriental Morning Post reported.

The tire recall was ordered after the U.S. distributor, Foreign Tire Sales Inc. of Union, N.J., said they lacked a safety feature, called a gum strip, that binds together belts of a tire. The company said some tires had a gum strip that was about one-half the width of the 0.6-millimetre strip FTS expected.

FTS was sued May 4 by the families of two men who were killed when a van in which they were riding crashed in Pennsylvania on Aug. 12, 2006. The lawsuit says the van had Hangzhou Zhongce tires.

Hangzhou Zhongce has denied supplying faulty products.

In comments published in China Daily, the company played down the significance of the gum strip.

``It's not included in the US Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, nor in our contract with FTS,'' Shen Jinrong, chairman of the Hangzhou Zhongce board of directors, was quoted saying.

Ma Liangqing, director of China's National Centre for Tire Quality Inspection and Supervision, said the strip should not be used as a safety measurement, the newspaper reported.

``Whether to have it, or how thick the strip is, are technical issues. The designs vary in different companies,'' Ma was quoted saying.

``The key is whether the finished products are up to standard.''

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China insists tires in U.S. recall meet safety standards
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