EU seeks China help as counterfeit seizures hit record high
Customs officials registered over 43,000 cases of fake goods such as medicine, foodstuffs and toys seized in 2007 as compared to 37,000 in 2006.21 May 2008
BRUSSELS - The European Union is seeking greater help from China in its fight against counterfeit goods amid record numbers of seizures and a worrying growth in the sale of fake medicines from Switzerland, India and the United Arab Emirates.
According to figures published Monday by the European Commission, EU customs officials registered over 43,000 cases of fake goods seized at the bloc's external borders in 2007, compared to 37,000 in 2006.
And while the overall number of articles has decreased from 2007's peak of 128 million to about 79 million, officials note that more and more potentially harmful fake products such as medicines, foodstuffs, electronic equipment and toys are making their way into the EU's common market.
Counterfeit goods do not just damage the EU economy, said Laszlo Kovacs, the EU's taxation and customs union commissioner, they can also pose "a serious threat to the safety, health and even to the lives of our citizens".
China remains by far the biggest manufacturer of counterfeit goods, with just under 60 per cent of all seizures involving goods coming from there.
But Kovacs, who last travelled to China in April, said cooperation with Beijing was "improving steadily".
In spite of the progress, the commissioner urged the Chinese authorities to carry out more systematic controls on their exports, and lamented the fact that the implementation of new anti-counterfeit legislation was still lagging behind.
"A country like China, which has an increasingly important role to play in ... world politics, simply cannot afford to be labelled as the number one source of counterfeit products," he said when explaining why he was confident that China was taking the fight against counterfeit seriously.
While cigarettes and clothing continue to top the list of most seized fake articles, officials expressed alarm at the 51-per-cent rise in the amount of fraudulent medicines intercepted by customs officials since 2006.
While Viagra - the famous erectile dysfunction remedy - remains the most popular counterfeit medicine, customs officials say steroids, anti-cholesterol drugs and medicines used to treat heart conditions are now also being seized.
The commission report found that 40 per cent of such fake medicines are produced in Switzerland. Other big producers include India (35 per cent) and the United Arab Emirates (15 per cent).
Exact estimates on the size of the global counterfeit business are difficult to come by, but a recent report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development found that cross-border counterfeits in 2005 were worth 200 billion dollars.
Most of the fake products enter the EU via sea, though more and more are being bought by individual customers on the internet.
[dpa / Expatica]