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IP/09/193

Brussels, 30 January 2009

Customs: EU and China agreements to strengthen cooperation on protecting Intellectual Property Rights and on preventing illicit imports of chemical substances used for synthetic drug production

Commissioner László Kovács, responsible for Taxation and Customs, today signed an Action Plan with the Chinese Ambassador Song to strengthen customs cooperation on protecting Intellectual Property Rights. They also signed an agreement to enhance customs co-operation in monitoring trade and preventing trafficking and the diversion of drug precursors (chemicals that are essential to the illicit manufacture of narcotic drugs).

Commissioner Kovács said: "Today's agreements constitute a step forward in customs cooperation between the EU and China. Since my first visit to China, there has been visible progress. China is aligning its customs legislation to the EU rules, and has increased controls to protect Intellectual Property Rights. Despite this, China remains a main source of fake goods or illicit drug precursors entering the EU. While those problems need to be addressed through more than just Customs intervention, I am convinced that today's cooperation agreements will contribute towards providing better protection for EU citizens."

Action Plan on Intellectual Property Rights

The protection of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) is a major issue for EU businesses, for whom counterfeit and pirated products pose a serious challenge. China is by far the largest source (around 60%) of such products seized at the EU borders.

IPR protection plays a central role in the success of the EU-China economic and trade cooperation. Without the implementation of effective legislation to combat counterfeiting, and effective control measures, the EU is not inclined to grant extensive trade facilitation measures to Chinese business.

Today's agreement on an Action Plan for closer customs cooperation between the EU and China on IPR enforcement gives a clear signal at political level of the EU's willingness to support China's efforts in this area. Conversely, the degree of commitment that China will devote to implementing the Action Plan will be a measure of its determination to cooperate internationally in order to achieve measurable reductions in counterfeit and piracy.

The Action Plan includes: setting up a working group to study the flow of counterfeit goods between China and the EU; the exchange of information on IPR risks; operational cooperation between key ports and airports; exchange of officials; and developing partnerships with the private sector in China in order to better target suspect shipments.

Agreement on drug precursors

"Drug precursors" are inoffensive chemical substances that are legally used in a wide variety of consumer products, such as medicines, soaps, perfumes or biocides. However, they also may be misused for the illicit manufacture of narcotic drugs such as cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and methamphetamines. For example, ephedrine is used in medicines for treating colds but could also be used to produce methamphetamine.

On the basis of today's agreement, China and the EU will, for the first time, establish a wide system of monitoring the legal movements of precursors. This will help to prevent drug precursors from being diverted from legal trade and misused in illicit drug manufacture in the Community.

Efficient customs control of drug precursors is of high importance: stopping 1 litre of ecstasy precursor avoids having to stop the sale of 10 000 ecstasy pills on the street.

The EU continues to be reported as one of the world's main sources of synthetic drugs, especially ecstasy and amphetamine. However, the precursor chemicals required to make those drugs are not legally available in the European Union and must be imported. China is considered the main source of illicit imports of drug precursors into the EU.

Illicit imports into the EU of drug precursors are numerous. The EU's seizures in 2006 for just two key precursors (for making ecstasy and methamphetamine/amphetamine) are equivalent to the production of more than € 2,5 billion of drugs at today's street values (based on UN figures).

For further information on customs cooperation with China, fight against counterfeiting and illicit traffic of drug precursors, see:

http://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/customs/policy_issues/international_customs_agreements/china/index_en.htm

http://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/customs/customs_controls/counterfeit_piracy/index_en.htm

http://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/customs/customs_controls/drugs_precursors/index_en.htm


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