Brussels, 31 January 2008
Commissioner László Kovács, responsible for Taxation and Customs, visited Beijing, Shenzhen and Hong Kong this week to meet with Chinese authorities to discuss ways in which customs cooperation between the EU and China can be further improved. While in Hong Kong, Commissioner Kovács had the first exploratory talks on taxation of savings with the relevant authorities.
On 28 January, Commissioner Kovács and China's Customs Commissioner Minister Mu Xinsheng opened the 3rd EU-China Joint Customs Cooperation Committee meeting. During this meeting and during bilateral talks the two sides agreed on the need for a concrete Action Plan on Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) through customs enforcement to be developed during 2008. This Action Plan should include concrete objectives and commitments and provide ways to achieve them. Both sides also discussed the reinforcement of supply chain security and introduction of trade facilitation measures for reliable traders. Both sides agreed on the good work being done in the framework of the EU-China pilot project on secure and smart trade lanes and on the potential of expanding the geographical scope and purpose of the project. They also agreed to establish a working group to ensure effective implementation and coordination of mutual assistance requests. Moreover, agreement on discussions for a bilateral cooperation agreement to tackle the trade of drug precursors has to be reached.
During those contacts the Commissioner had the opportunity to express the EU position on the US legislation on 100% scanning of maritime containers. The Chinese authorities have the same concerns and both sides agreed that secure customs controls should instead come through risk analysis and mutual recognition of safety standards and checks.
The Commissioner visited Shenzhen where he met Mayor Xu Zongheng and had an operational visit of the Yantian port in Shenzhen.
On 30 January, Commissioner Kovács opened the 7th EU-Hong Kong Joint Customs Cooperation Committee meeting with Hong Kong Commissioner of Customs and Excise Richard Yuen. Both sides hailed the substantial ongoing cooperation between the European Commission and Hong Kong in customs. During the meeting, the European Commission updated the Hong Kong side on the EC-China pilot project on secure and smart trade lanes and encouraged Hong Kong to participate in the EC-China pilot project.
Commissioner Kovács also visited the Shenzhen Bay Control Point which began operation in July 2007. The control point provides co-location of boundary crossing facilities to both passenger and vehicular traffic between Hong Kong and Mainland China.
On 31 January, Commissioner Kovács met with Hong Kong Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury KC Chan for the first exploratory talks on the possible application in Hong Kong of measures equivalent to the EU Savings Taxation Directive and in particular exchange of information. Both sides agreed to continue contacts on the issue.
During this visit Commissioner Kovács met with representatives of the business community and discussed with them all related issues, seeking their opinion and advice. At joint luncheons organised by the European Chamber of Commerce in Beijing and in Hong Kong, the Commissioner delivered speeches on customs and tax issues.
The protection of Intellectual Property Rights is a major issue for EU businesses, for whom counterfeit and pirated products pose a serious challenge. China is by far the largest source of such products seized at the EU borders.
China has made welcomed progress in setting up an intellectual property regime. There have been visible improvements in enforcement, and the Chinese customs legislation is now quite similar to that of the EU. The problem of IPR infringements in China far exceeds the level of customs intervention. Nonetheless, numerous actions still need to be taken: stronger administrative cooperation between customs in the EU and China should lead to better enforcement and offer a visible sign at political level of the EU's willingness to support China's efforts in this area.
For further information on customs cooperation with China, see:
For further information on customs cooperation with Hong Kong, see:
For further information on the EU Savings Taxation Directive: