By  on March 31, 2014

MILAN — The  Italian footwear manufacturers’ association, Assocalzaturifici, held a conference Monday titled “Made in: Last Call!” The meeting was in advance of the European Parliament’s April 16 plenary session, when EU representatives will vote on new consumer goods legislation.

The EU Parliament’s Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) committee drafted the proposed Consumer Product Safety Regulation, which states in article 7 that all consumer goods sold in Europe must have country of  origin labels, either directly on products or on their packaging or accompanying documents, if the size or nature of the goods in question makes labeling them impossible.
 
The Italian fashion, textile and footwear industries have been vocal in their support of tougher labeling regulations on imports, as they face competition from countries with less rigorous labor laws and cheaper operating costs, as well as firms that stitch fake “Made in Italy” labels on low-quality goods produced elsewhere. Opposition to product origin labeling on consumer goods sold in the EU has come mainly from northern Europe, where countries such as Germany have mostly offshored manufacturing.
 
“This is a theme that needs to be discussed with consumer groups and unions, it’s not a topic that concerns industry alone,” said Assocalzaturifici director Fabio Aromatici, emphasizing the need for greater overall transparency in the market. Assocalzaturifici vice president Diego Rossetti spoke of the “frustration” of Italian manufacturers, who feel ignored by politicians even as there is talk of increasing the incidence of the manufacturing industry to 20 percent of Europe’s GDP.
 
“How we can reach this goal without a law that protects consumers and also the European manufacturing industry is hard to understand,” he said.
 
Several Italian members of parliament were on hand to discuss the legislation.
 
“Our objective is not to discriminate against or eliminate from the market products that come from other places, because that wouldn’t be right. Our objective is to inform; then consumers will be free in their choice to prefer one quality-price relationship [over another],” said Lara Comi, a member of the IMCO commission that drafted the proposal. 
 
Cristiana Muscardini, vice president of the International Trade (INTA) Commission, said most of the EU’s competitors — including the U.S. — already mandate country of origin labels on their imports, and the lack of transparency within the EU put local businesses at a disadvantage. She also expressed concern that even if the outcome of the April 16 vote is positive, “without a strong stance from the Italian government,” the European Council could later quash the legislation.
 
Audience members included numerous representatives from the textile, jewelry and even ceramics industries. While most of those present agreed mandatory origin labeling was desirable, some felt the proposed legislation did  not go far enough, as 100 percent of the manufacturing process need not be in a country in order for the label to be applied. In addition, some attendees disliked the fact that EU countries could choose to label their products with national “Made in” or “Made in the EU” labels.
 
Patrizia Toia, vice president of the Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) Commission, said that while the legislation was “kept rather to the bare bones,” that made it more likely to pass, paving the way for future improvements.

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