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Barack Obama puts holiday spin on trade focus, promises to protect young from dangerous toys

As holiday shoppers hunted for safe toys Sunday, Democrat Barack Obama touted his plan for tighter regulation of Chinese-made playthings, millions of which have been recalled because of unsafe levels of lead.
Obama said he would test to find toys with lead-based paint and ban those with even trace amounts of the substance.
"Now don't get me wrong, as president I will work with China to keep harmful toys off our shelves," Obama said. "But I'll also immediately take steps to ensure that all toys are independently tested before they reach our shores and I'll significantly increase penalties on companies that break the rules."
"The more toys we import from China, the more risk to our children," said Obama, an Illinois senator. "As president I will act with urgency to protect our children from being harmed by unsafe toys."
Obama used a pre-Christmas swing through western Iowa to call for bolstering consumer protection efforts against toys from China; his campaign said up to 80 percent of the toys sold in America are made there. Background documents provided by the campaign said up to 400,000 children each year suffer some form of lead poisoning, underscoring the need for independent inspection of those toys.
After the appearances, he was headed home to Chicago and joked about power-shopping on Christmas Eve.
"I'm going to have to do all of mine tomorrow. It's going to be tough," Obama said.
Iowa voters launch the presidential nominating season with precinct caucuses on Jan. 3, and most polls show Obama, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina locked in a tight, yet fluid, race.
When Obama asked for the undecideds in the audience of about 200 to show their hands, roughly one-third did.
Besides the promise of improved toy safety, the Democratic presidential candidate also argued for trade policies that are tougher and with more environmental standards and protections for workers.
Still, Obama sought distinctions with rivals Clinton and Edwards, though he softened the edges a bit. On Saturday, Obama criticized Edwards, saying his rival did not have the record to back up the populist rhetoric he uses on the campaign trail.
Obama also argued that he has not been forced to apologize for any of his issue positions or votes. That was an apparent reference to Edwards and Clinton. Edwards has apologized for voting for to authorize the use of force against Iraq when he served in the Senate; Clinton has been criticized for refusing to apologize for voting the same way. Her Democratic presidential rivals also have assailed Clinton for voting to designate Iran's Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization.
"I'm not the one who has to apologize for votes I made not standing up to Republicans," Obama said. "And I think voters should feel pretty confident that when I feel strongly about an issue, I'm going to stand my ground."
As he swept through western Iowa, Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, were stumping in eastern Iowa. Bill Clinton recently said Obama was asking voters to "roll the dice" and vote for him, a freshman senator.
Asked about the former president's comments during an interview on CBS television's "Face the Nation," Obama said he understands Clinton's desire to help his wife but that the criticism was unfounded.
"I understand he is loyal to her," Obama said. "That sort of criticism that he is leveling at me is exactly the kind of criticism that was leveled against him" when Clinton ran for president in 1992.

Updated : 2021-07-28 22:50 GMT+08:00