The government on Wednesday signed an agreement with China that will improve information sharing on auto safety following summer's recall of thousands of defective Chinese-made tires.
The "memorandum of understanding" signed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and China's National Reform and Development Commission will "strengthen cooperation and communication" on several motor vehicle regulation and safety issues.
In June, NHTSA ordered a U.S. importer, Foreign Tire Sales Inc., to recall as many as 450,000 tires it had bought from Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber Co.
The Union, N.J.-based importer initially said it did not have the financial resources to conduct a full recall, but then announced in August that it would recall 255,000 tires.
The recall involved steel-belted radial replacement tires for pickups, vans and sport utility vehicles that consumers bought from early 2004 through mid-2006. The tires were recalled because they lacked a safety feature that prevents tread separation.
NHTSA Administrator Nicole Nason said "if we see a situation in the future where we need information from a Chinese manufacturer like we had with FTS ... we can go straight to the Chinese government and ask them to reach out to the manufacturer."
Nason said given the interest expressed by Chinese automakers to sell vehicles in the U.S. in the future, "we think it's valuable to have this agreement in place now."
The agreement outlines cooperation between the two countries on developing technical regulations, issuing consumer information, enforcing safety-related defects and reviewing the safety attributes of new vehicles.
Chinese auto safety officials were meeting with NHTSA staff this week to share information on regulations involving fuel economy, crash testing and the regulation of tires and vehicles.
The agreement comes amid questions about the quality of Chinese toys, food and other products after a string of product recalls and import bans in recent months.