NANNING, China (Kyodo) — China and the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations signed a joint statement Monday declaring their consensus on toughening food safety measures and strengthening notification of problem food exports.
Ministers for food safety and health from the 10 countries attended the first ministerial meeting hosted by Chinese top food quality supervisor Li Changjiang during the China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit.
The summit, alongside the China-ASEAN Expo, is being held in Nanning, capital of southern China's Guangxi Autonomous Region.
''(China and ASEAN countries) agree to implement stringent measures to punish those who engage in illegal export of products,'' Li said after concluding the two-day Ministerial Meeting on Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, one of nine forums being held in the summit.
''It is our consensus reached in the meeting that any enterprises (that) engage in illegal export trade should be punished severely and criminal charges would be filed against them,'' he said.
The eight points of understanding hammered out in the Nanning Joint Statement includes enhancing cooperation and exchanges in food safety measures and information exchanges of laws.
In addition to the joint statement, a memorandum of understanding between China and ASEAN on inspection and quarantine cooperation is set to be signed during the ASEAN summit next month in Singapore.
China exported 24 million tons of foodstuffs in 2006, worth $26.7 billion. The largest buyers were Japan, the United States, South Korea, Russia, Germany and Malaysia, according to official records.
The discovery of chemical residues and banned substances in Chinese exports ranging from toothpaste to toys has raised concern internationally, including in ASEAN countries.
Li admitted that different standards on food safety exist among China and ASEAN states, and all parties have agreed in unifying the standards with international requirements on certain food products to facilitate regulation and law enforcement.
The 10 ASEAN members are Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Brunei, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar.