All members of the European Union (EU), Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Rep of Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom, adopt a common trade policy. The EU has a liberal import regime where import licensing is not common. Import licences are issued with due consideration for the provisions of relevant European Union trade agreements and the needs of the specific importing country.
Under the EU "New Approach to Technical Harmonisation", certain products are required to meet the specific quality standards, website: http://www.newapproach.org/. The directive applies to toy safety, machinery, electromagnetic compatibility (EMC), telecommunications terminal equipment, active implantable medical devices, medical devices, non-automatic weighing equipment, construction products, explosion proof electrical equipment, low voltage electrical equipment, simple pressure vessels, personal protection equipment and gas appliances. Qualified products must carry a CE mark to show its compatibility, fixed onto the product by a manufacturer or importer as self-declaration of compliance.
Traders must pay attention to the EU product liability law, which covers all liability on defects not ordinarily expected by a consumer. Both the seller in the EU as well as the manufacturer are liable under the law.
Hong Kong exports to the EU has been excluded from the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) Scheme since 1 May 1998, but selective exports from China origin to the EU are still eligible for GSP benefit in the EU. However, exporters shipping GSP eligible China origin goods via Hong Kong to the EU, should note that all shipment are required to accompany a non-manipulation certificate confirming that the goods have not been further processed in Hong Kong issued by the China Inspection (HK) Co Ltd in Hong Kong. (tel. 2503 1988)
Import duties into the EU countries are subject to the respective import tariff (normally applied on the import c.i.f. value) plus the value-added tax (VAT) varies according to different importing countries. Examples of the standard rates are Austria (20%), Belgium (21%), Denmark (25%), Finland (22%), France (19.6%), Germany (16%), Greece (18%), Rep of Ireland (21%), Italy (19%), Netherlands (17.5% ), Portugal (17%), Spain (16%), Sweden (25%) and UK (17.5%).
The EU has imposed emergency controls on wooden packing material made from trees grown in China. The measures affect consignments shipped from the mainland effective 10 June 1999, including those transshipped through Hong Kong.
The European Commission has tabled a draft proposal to amend the EU Directive 76/769/EEC on ban of the use of azo dyes. The proposal provides a list of products include clothing, bedding, towels, footwear, purses/wallets, briefcases, chair covers and toys. The Directive is a broad step towards eliminating azo dyes and products containing azo dyestuffs above a certain detection limit. The draft Directive recommends applying the German method of testing. At present, goods containing azo dyes are banned from entry into the Netherlands, Austria and German.
The EU announces developments in the EU's Eco-labels scheme to 219 products, particularly footwear, textiles and personal computer. Exporters trading with the scheme member country will need to get their suppliers adhering to strict production methods in order to comply with the label award. Hong Kong exporters may have to ensure that the concerned production methods comply with the labelling criteria prior to the EU. A full list of product groups involved in the Eco-labelling scheme can be found at the following website : http://europa.eu.int/comm/dgs/environment/index_en.htm.
Environment Protection, Directive on Packaging and Packaging waste, which set out common waste recovery and recycling standards. Manufacturers and exporters should minimise the packaging of their products exporting to the EU.
The EU Directives establish principle of product liability on the fault of the producer in event of damage caused by a defect in the product. Applied to all defective movable consumer products and agricultural products, the injured person has three years to seek compensation from the date on which the plaintiff became aware of the damage, the defect and the identity of the producer. The producer as well as the importer and the retailer will be responsible to the damage and the consequent compensation.
EU has imposed an immediate ban on cosmetics imports with testing products on animals from 1 July 2000. In addition, a definitive testing ban for cosmetic ingredients will all be implemented three years after the proposed amended Directive 76/768/EEC.
The European Union server at website: http://europa.eu.int/index.htm
EUR-Lex - the European Union Law and Official Journals at
Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (Trade marks and Designs)