The 2013/03/12 at 09:11
Marie Luginsland, in Germany
Buy French. Ever since the last French presidential campaign, the slogan has regularly brandished by ministers ostensibly backing French brands, with goods labelled to flaunt their origins. At the same time, the “made in” label is making a return appearance on the European scene. While the European Parliament has resolved to make the use of “made in” labels compulsory on goods imported from non-EU countries, the European Commission published, in February, its proposals for new regulations on the traceability of European products.
The European Commission will shortly be submitting to the European Parliament a revised text on “made in” labelling, conforming with recent WTO rules. This is a solution “by default” as there is no question of compulsory labelling on origins for imported goods; it is more a matter of traceability for European products allowing consumers to make more aware choices.
According to Antonio Tajani, Vice-President of the European Commission, responsible for Industry and Entrepreneurship, these regulations should allow Europeans “to reap the full economic benefit of the single market”. To this end, Europe needs “a set of high-quality rules on the safety of products and an effective, well-coordinated, Union-wide implementation system to back it up.”
The new regulations set out to facilitate the identification and traceability of consumer products by creating better monitoring and checking conditions thanks to a standardisation of European procedures. Manufacturers, importers and distributors will all be subject to the same rules to guarantee the consumer’s safety. At the same time, a coherent market-control instrument based on cooperation between the Member States, will be introduced to apply security requirements in order to fight against products that are dangerous or do not conform to standards. To achieve this goal, procedures for notifications on dangerous products are to be simplified, and synergies are to be created between the current rapid alert system (RAPEX) and the Information and Communication System on Market Surveillance (ICSMS).
This improvement in the traceability of manufacturing and the supply chain will facilitate product recalls. In addition, manufacturers and importers will need to ensure that products bear the mention of their country of origin. Where this information cannot be presented due to the product’s volume or nature, it should be marked on the packaging or on an attached notice.
For products manufactured in the European Union, the mention of “EU” or of one of the member countries should be displayed in the “made in” form. “Better coordination of product safety checks, especially at the EU external borders, will eliminate unfair competition from dishonest or criminal rogue operators,” declared Antonio Tajani during the presentation of the rules, currently being studied by the European Parliament and Council.
However, these new regulations, scheduled for enforcement in 2015, have far from won everyone’s favour, especially within European enterprises. German manufacturers strongly attached to their “made in Germany” label are the most loud-spoken in their protests. The textiles branch for example remains very sceptical about the measures. “Rules on product origins are very complex and have nothing to due with consumer protection when a suit in high-quality fabric from Germany is sewn in Tunisia,” remarks Wolf-Rüdiger Baumann, Secretary General of the German textiles federation textil+mode.
Objections can similarly be heard from German SMEs, whose federation points out that these regulations are poorly adapted to the reality of globalisation. “If the manufacturing process bringing the main added value takes place in Germany, the product should bear the ‘made in Germany’ label,” insists Lutz Goebel, President of the federation for SMESs, Die Familienunternehmer. “As German foreign trade results indicate, it is true that clients are still ready to pay dearer for machines or components as long as they carry the famous ‘made in Germany’.”