The EU strengthens commercial ties with China

China is the EU's second trading partner after the USA and its biggest source of imports. The EU is China's largest export market. Both the EU and China therefore have a real interest in ensuring that safe, genuine and legal products can easily enter each other’s markets.

During a recent visit to China EU Commissioner for Taxation, Customs Union, Anti-Fraud and Audit, Algirdas Šemeta had the opportunity to meet with country authorities as well as representatives from companies about key issues related to customs and measures to combat fraud. Within this visit, Commissioner Šemeta, also opened an international conference at the Shanghai World Expo 2010 on building bridges to facilitate trade between China and the EU. The aim of the conference was to explore ways to enhance further customs cooperation between the EU and China, in order to allow a smooth trade flow between both sides while providing citizens with a high level of protection.

EU customs play a crucial role: ensuring the balance between protecting society and facilitating legitimate trade flows. One of the problems of the customs is anti-fraud measures, so in July the Commission has published Annual Report on EU Customs actions to enforce intellectual property rights. In this context, securing the supply chain, tackling smuggling  and protecting intellectual property rights were high on the agenda.

Customs have information on every single import and export that crosses EU borders, and use sophisticated methods to control these goods. China is the single most important challenge for EU trade policy. Cooperation between customs authorities on both sides is essential to facilitate this trade.

Intellectual property rights

EU Customs play a crucial role in stopping products which violate intellectual property rights from entering the Internal Market. In that way, the protection of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and the fight against counterfeiting and piracy is key to ensuring the success of EU-China economic and trade relations.

In January 2009, the EU and China signed an agreement on an ambitious Action Plan for closer customs cooperation between the EU and China on IPR enforcement. It aims to strengthen customs controls against counterfeit and piracy in goods traded between both sides. Within this Action Plan, both sides have focussed on establishing and implementing a customs network on IPR protection, as well as developing activities in key areas such as data exchange, sharing good practices and working with industry on this issue.

During the Commissioner’s visit to China, both sides discussed extending this Action Plan until the end of 2012, with a view to ensuring its proper and successful implementation, and will look at ways in which activities under the Plan can be improved.