Manufacturers, retailers and importers selling apparel, footwear and accessories within the European Union will have to ensure product labels include a country of origin, or say they were made in the EU, under new consumer legislation proposed February 13.
The European Commission tabled two new regulations on consumer product safety and the market surveillance of products. In a note, it said its goal was “to make all type of products easier to track through the supply chain and eliminate dishonest competition”.
Where an accessory is too small for a label, origin information will be provided on packaging or a product leaflet. Origin data would “supplement the basic traceability requirements concerning the name and address of the manufacturer,” said the Commission.
The proposals would also clarify the responsibilities under EU law of product regulators, manufacturers, importers and distributors regarding consumer safety. And, if approved by the EU Council of Ministers and the European Parliament, they would streamline procedures for notifying regulators about dangerous products, such as clothes with hazardous dyes or potentially choking draw-strings.
Welcoming the proposal, EU industry commissioner Antonio Tajani said: “Better coordination of product safety checks, especially at the EU external borders, will eliminate unfair competition from dishonest or criminal rogue operators”.
Europe’s textile and clothing industry has welcomed the news that the EU and the US are to commence talks on the biggest bilateral trade deal ever negotiated.
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership will aim to go beyond the classic format of removing tariffs and opening markets, the EU, European Commission and US President Barack Obama said in a joint statement.
Another important focus will be the alignment of rules and technical product standards, currently viewed as the most significant barrier to transatlantic trade.
According to the EU, studies have shown that the cost burden of regulatory differences equates to a tariff of more than 10% – or as high as 20% in some sectors.
EU calculations suggest that the new deal could lead to a 0.5% increase in GDP every year for the EU, and a 0.4% gain for the US – equating to EUR86bn (US$115bn) in additional annual income for the EU and EUR65bn for the US.
“This is very positive news in a moment when the EU textile and clothing industry is relying on exports as an engine for growth,” said Alberto Paccanelli, president of EU clothing and textile trade federation Euratex.
“There are a lot of areas where we can improve trade and business between the EU and the US,” he added.
“For our sector tariffs are still high in the US – in some cases above 16% – and in the regulatory field we should work towards harmonization as a way to facilitate trade and reduce the costs for companies on both sides of the Atlantic.”
The US currently ranks among the top five export markets for EU textiles and clothing, with exports of more than EUR3.8bn a year.
The European Parliament urged the European Commission to stick to its guns in proposing that origin labeling for clothing and shoes made outside the European Union (EU) be made mandatory.
The call came after the EU executive threatened to withdraw a legislative proposal on the issue.
The Commission is struggling to find majority support for the idea on the EU Council of Ministers. If the proposal is in the end withdrawn, clothing and footwear manufacturers would not be obliged to disclose the origin of their producers when selling in the European market.
MEPs also pointed out in a resolution this would weaken the EU compared with competitors such as the US, China and Japan, which do have mandatory ‘made in’ labels.
The chair of the parliament’s international trade committee, Portuguese social democrat Vital Moreira, said in a debate the legislation was designed to “prevent the use of false or misleading labels, so as to put us on an equal footing with our trade partners”.
Other MEPs accused multinationals in some big EU countries of lobbying against the legislation which would ban “misleading or no claims of origin to cover up environmental and social dumping,” said a parliament memorandum.
The motion asked the European Commission to make the proposal more politically palatable, but preserve its core requirement.
The trade group representing the foreign trade interests of European retailers, importers and brand companies is urging the European Parliament to open European markets to Burmese products “without delay”.
The call comes after the European Commission in September took a step towards reinstating trade preferences for Burma/Myanmar, in a move that would give products such as clothing duty- and quota-free access to the European market for the first time since 1997.
The plan is to bring the country back under the so-called ‘Everything But Arms’ trade regime, which is part of the EU’s Generalized System of Preferences (GSP). It applies to Burma because it is classified as a Least Developed Country (LDC) by the United Nations.
However, the decision to grant GSP to Myanmar is still pending approval by the European Parliament.
“Trade is crucial to open the country to the world and ensure the efforts made towards an improved political and labor environment will have long lasting effects,” said FTA director general Jan Eggert.