Goods should clearly state their country of origin, to help consumers to make informed choices, say MEPs. International Trade Committee MEPs on Wednesday approved a proposed EU-wide system of country of origin markings for goods imported from third countries, after amending it to allow the origin to be stated in English anywhere in the EU and to ensure that it applies only to goods destined for final consumers. MEPs also advocated introducing harmonised penalties for breaching the rules.
The proposed EU regulation, approved with 19 votes in favour, 2 against, with 2 abstentions, aim to ensure that customers are properly informed about a product's origin and also to protect them against possible health risks, counterfeiting and unfair competition. Parliament's rapporteur was Cristiana Muscardini (EPP, IT).
"Made in" languages
The words "made in", together with the country, must be stated "in a language that is easily understood by consumers in the Member State where the goods are to be marketed". MEPs inserted an amendment to allow the use of English, as a possible alternative, anywhere in the EU.
Packs, as well as goods
The country of origin must be marked on most goods, except where such marking would damage the goods, or is not possible for technical reasons. If goods are packaged, the origin marking should be placed on the package, as well as the goods.
What should be marked?
The regulation, as approved in committee, will apply only to products that are destined for end consumers. It does not cover fish and aquaculture products or foodstuffs, nor goods originating in the European Union, Turkey, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein.
The very long list of products covered includes, for instance, glassware, textile and pharmaceutical products, tools, screws, taps, and furniture. This could be extended in the future by the Commission, after the approval of Parliament and the Council.
The Commission proposal had not provided for a harmonised system of penalties where the rules are breached. MEPs insisted that the Commission must propose minimum common standards for penalties, to ensure that the rules are applied uniformly in all Member States.
Commission study after three years
The regulation, once adopted by both Parliament and the Council, will be applicable in all Member States starting one year after its publication in the EU Official Journal.
MEPs also amended the draft regulation to require the Commission to carry out a study on its effects, no later than three years after its entry into force.
At present, there are no harmonised origin marking rules at EU level.
The Commission submitted a draft regulation in 2005 but the procedure ground to a halt in the Council for a while, as it was blocked by some Member States.
Parliament as whole is likely to approve the regulation before the end of this year.