February 10, 2009 / 11:15 AM / 11 years ago

UPDATE 1-India says open to talks with China on toy ban

(Adds details, quotes and background)

By Manoj Kumar and Rajesh Kumar Singh

NEW DELHI, Feb 10 (Reuters) - India is ready to hold talks with Beijing over its ban on the import of Chinese toys, the trade minister said on Tuesday, a day after China warned New Delhi to exercise restraint or face serious damage to ties.

India last month banned imports of several types of toys from China for six months “in the public interest”, without giving any further details.

“We are open to any discussions on this matter and until the government of India is satisfied we will not be able to lift this ban,” Trade Minister Kamal Nath told reporters.

“I welcome any discussions on this matter. Certainly we will satisfy them for the reasons for which we have taken this step.”

China has said it is greatly concerned about recent Indian trade probes. Its Commerce Ministry said on Monday that India had launched 17 probes of Chinese-made products since October.

Worries about protectionism are rising as the impact of the global financial crisis spreads, increasing the temptation for governments to bring in measures that will help their firms in the short-term but worsen the overall economic pain.

Nath said the bans India had placed on Chinese toys were “WTO-compliant” and were a matter of public health and safety.

Chinese state media said earlier this month that Beijing may ask the World Trade Organisation to investigate India’s toy ban.

China, a key supplier of toys, apparel and food to much of the world, 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 MAT.N 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.

China ran an $11.2 billion trade surplus with India in 2008, according to Chinese government figures, with goods flows growing strongly in both directions. (Writing by Surojit Gupta; Editing by Paul Tait)

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