Tuesday, 22 April 2008

EIPIN Windsor: Counterfeiting and China - does a bias exist against China in customs enforcement?

Of course, as the subject of last weekend's symposium was counterfeiting the shadow of counterfeiting in China definitely loomed over the proceedings. Time upon time we were reminded that the main source for counterfeit goods entering the UK is China. The figures given by John Taylor, director-general of TAXUD, a European tax and customs body, would appear to speak for themselves: 79% of cases of seizures of counterfeit goods entering the EU and 81% of cases of seizure entering the US are from China.

But how do these figures stand up to close inspection? Mr Taylor did say that 70% of overall articles seized were packs of fake cigarettes seized in the post from China - so the actual value of counterfeit goods received from China may be somewhat less than 79% as postal seizures will be much smaller than container-sized shipments.

Is there a bias towards inspecting cargo coming from China? Whilst it's arguable that customs inspectors target containers coming from China, the way in which many of these containers are so tightly packed that it is often impossible to re-pack them also acts as a disincentive, so it is hard to say whether bias exists.

It should also be mentioned that the seizure process requires inspectors to notify the rights holders who will then come and identify whether the goods are counterfeit or not. It is therefore likely that genuine articles which have been stolen or accidentally dispatched have been declared counterfeit by the rights holders to avoid embarrassment - but it is hard to see how this would create a bias against China.

Most of all, if counterfeiters choose China as a base for their activities, this may well be for the same reason that many manufacturers do - low labour costs, and thus the proportion of counterfeit seizure cases coming from China may be not that much greater than the proportion of genuine articles imported from China - but this is difficult to know.

No comments: