By Harry Stoffer, Automotive NewsWashington - The US and China will sign a first-ever agreement this week to combat dangers posed by defective auto parts, said Nicole Nason, the chief US vehicle safety regulator.Officials of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which Nason heads, call the agreement with China a landmark. It coincides with other Bush administration efforts to address product safety issues with China.The agreement follows a dispute this summer over the recall of 450,000 replacement tyres from China. The tires' US importer said initially it could not afford the recall. The Chinese tyre maker, Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber Co., said the tyres were not defective.The episode was among a wave of high-profile reports this year about allegedly unsafe Chinese products - especially pet food and toys - reaching US homes.At a meeting on 6 Sept in Australia, Chinese President Hu Jintao assured President Bush that China is stepping up safety inspections.Nason told Automotive News last week that her interest in improving information exchanges with her Chinese counterparts preceded the recent reports about Chinese products. She said her first overseas trip as NHTSA administrator, last September, was to China. A deal has been in the works since.Nason said the agreement with China's National Development and Reform Commission "will help facilitate sharing of research and information, so that if we have a recall in the future, the Chinese government will assist us in making sure we get information from the manufacturer overseas."That cooperation could become even more important when Chinese-made vehicles start arriving in the US, expected in late 2008 or 2009."