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TRADE WARS
China, Hong Kong top hubs for fake goods: Europol
by Staff Writers
The Hague (AFP) June 22, 2017


Macron faces EU summit pushback on Chinese investments
Brussels (AFP) June 22, 2017 - A push by French President Emmanuel Macron to hand Brussels more powers to control Chinese investments in Europe's key industries faced a setback on Thursday from EU partners who fear a rise of protectionism.

European leaders will discuss the thorny topic of international trade on the second day of an EU summit on Friday, as Europe seeks to champion free trade against the protectionist policies of US President Donald Trump.

But Macron, who firmly denied any slight, wanted to put a special focus on the wave of blockbuster investments by China in Europe that has startled some Europeans.

According to a draft of the summit conclusions seen by AFP, opponents of Macron's efforts have succeeded in watering down an earlier proposal.

In the latest draft, leaders will only ask the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, to "examine the need" to screen investments from countries outside the EU, with China the main target.

The leaders will then "revert to this issue at one of its future meetings," delaying any discussion to an unspecified date, the conclusions will say.

Arriving for the two days of talks, the French leader denied the development was a setback.

"On investments, very clearly, the conclusions reflect our wishes," Macron said.

"I hope we can have... a Europe that is absolutely open to free trade and our values, but that leaves us protected when others break the rules," he said.

"We are asking the commission to work on it."

Macron's idea had faced significant opposition from Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic, as well as European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem, all highly suspicious of French-style meddling in the open market.

EU governments agreed to at least include the idea in the summit conclusions as a gesture to Macron, whom leaders want to congratulate for roundly defeating the far right Marine Le Pen in elections last month.

"If you look at the draft summit conclusions you will find a collective effort to not make life excessively complicated for Macron -- on the understanding that he will deliver on promises and reforms," a senior EU diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

China and Hong Kong are overwhelmingly the largest shipment centres for fake goods sold around the world, in a growing, complex battle against sophisticated counterfeiters, Europe's police agency said Thursday.

In 2015, the two territories "were the provenance of 86% of global counterfeiting and $396.5 billion worth of counterfeit goods," Europol said in a detailed 74-page report, adding intellectual property theft was "one of the most lucrative criminal enterprises".

With the rising use of cargo rail links between China and Europe, there are also concerns that criminal networks may begin to seize on what can be a cheaper or faster alternative for transporting goods than container shipping or air links.

Turkey is another important hub for the entry of fake goods into the European Union, along with Thailand and Singapore, said the joint report produced with the Madrid-based EU Intellectual Property Office.

Everything from shampoos, to batteries, electronics and brand-name clothing, toys, medicine and food has been counterfeited and sold, often to unsuspecting customers. There is also a rising trade in fake labels for Europe-based networks producing such goods inside the zone.

But the top category of fake goods seized at the EU's borders in 2015 was cigarettes -- accounting for some 27 percent of some 88,000 cases investigated by customs officials.

As gangs seek to bypass checks and reach consumers quickly and cheaply, rail connections out of China could offer "concrete advantages," the report warned.

"Intellectual property crime is extensive in the EU and carries very many adverse effects," warned Europol head Rob Wainwright.

"It harms our economies, generates enormous illicit profits for organised crime groups, and often causes direct physical harm to citizens in the form of the growing supply of fake health and safety goods."

Sales of fake clothing and shoes amounted to more than 26 billion euros in lost sales of legitimate goods in Europe, or 9.7 percent of total revenues, causing an estimated 363,000 job losses in this "mirror economy", the report said.

Many items are now being sold online directly to consumers, allowing counterfeiters to send their goods in small packets which may pass more easily through border checks.

"Counterfeiters often need to produce and ship products quickly, usually in reaction to emerging product trends and demands," the report said.

While the goods may be produced cheaply, "air freight, despite being fast, is often too expensive" while a shipping container can take up to six weeks to reach its destination.

China is developing both its rail and road infrastructure to reach the eastern EU external borders.

And "cargo trains offering logistics solutions between China and the EU for nearly half the price of air freight, which take approximately half the time of traditional container shipping, would appear a logical choice," the report said.

TRADE WARS
NAFTA renegotiation may extend into 2018: US official
Washington (AFP) June 19, 2017
Renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement could take until next year, US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Monday. The remarks underscore the pressures facing the current administration as it attempts to deliver on one of President Donald Trump's signature campaign pledges. Speaking at a trade event near Washington, Ross said that in an "ideal world" talks would be complete ... read more

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