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Brussels, 25 January 2008

EU Commissioner László Kovács to visit China to discuss customs cooperation

Commissioner László Kovács, responsible for customs, will visit Beijing next week to meet with Chinese authorities, including Customs Commissioner Minister Mu Xinsheng, in order to discuss ways in which customs cooperation between the EU and China can be further improved. Discussions will focus on increasing protection of Intellectual Property Rights, reinforcing security of the supply chain and introducing trade facilitation measures for reliable traders. The Commissioner's visit will also include meetings with business community and an operational visit of the port in Shenzen. Commissioner Kovács will also visit Hong Kong to discuss customs cooperation's issues and to start exploratory talks on taxation of savings.

Protection of Intellectual Property Rights

On 28 January, Commissioner Kovács and Customs Commissioner Minister Mu Xinsheng will open the 3rd Joint Customs Cooperation Committee (JCCC) meeting, where a concrete Action Plan on Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) will be developed. This Action Plan will include specific commitments from both parties to strengthen cooperation on protecting Intellectual Property Rights, including a partnership between the private sectors in China and the EU.

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 exceed 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.

Security of the supply chain vs. trade facilitation measures for reliable traders

The Commissioner will also use his visit to China to give political impetus to the good work being done on both sides in terms of strengthening the security of the supply chain, while still facilitating trade for reliable traders.

This work began in December 2006, with the launch of the EU-China pilot project on secure and smart trade lanes (see IP/06/1821).

On 19 November 2007, the customs administrations of the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and China exchanged for the first time electronic information on sea containers leaving their territory through the ports of Rotterdam, Felixstowe and Shenzhen.

Purpose of the project is to better target the traffic of illicit goods by:

  • Exchanging between customs the pre-arrival/departure data on containers loaded on vessels leaving their territory,
  • using electronic seals on containers in order to ensure a secure end-to-end supply chain;
  • applying minimum control standards on containers (e.g. setting out circumstances in which the container will be checked, scanned or inspected manually) and communicating the control results electronically;
  • defining common risk indicators to help select "high risk" containers for controls.
  • reducing overall controls at import through recognition of controls at export, thereby ensuring that any remaining import controls focus on particularly high risk items)

Given that this project only began 3 months ago, it is too early to assess whether trade facilitation and security have yet been increased. However, discussions at high political level are needed to deepen dialogue with Chinese authorities and to ensure that operational success can be achieved.

Furthermore, following close technical cooperation between the EC and China, China is adopting and implementing legislation on security and trade facilitation that is based on and in line with EU legislation (Authorised Economic Operators (AEO): certificate coupled with trade facilitation measures for reliable traders: see IP/06/1821). Discussions at political level are needed in order to ensure the final objective, which is the mutual recognition of certificates at both sides of the borders.

Other issues to be discussed with the Chinese authorities

  • The establishment of an EU-China Working Group to ensure effective implementation and coordination of mutual assistance requests.
  • Discussions on a possible bilateral co-operation agreement to tackle the trade of drug precursors, which are often used to manufacture illicit synthetic drugs.

Customs cooperation with Hong Kong

On 30 January, Commissioner Kovács will open the 7th EU-Hong Kong Joint Customs Cooperation Committee meeting with Hong-Kong Commissioner of Customs and Excise Richard Yuen.

The EU-Hong Kong Customs Cooperation Agreement is a unique framework for promoting reforms in customs legislation, for promoting efforts to fight counterfeiting, and for promoting cooperation in supply chain security.

Discussions will also take place on possible expansion to Hong Kong of the EC-China pilot project on smart and secure trade lanes.

Exploratory talks on taxation of savings with Hong Kong

Commissioner Kovács will also head a delegation of technical experts to start exploratory talks with Hong Kong authorities on the possible application in Hong Kong of measures equivalent to the EU Savings Taxation Directive.

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:

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