In July of 2006, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on country of origin marking. This resolution related to a Commission proposal for a Council Regulation, which would introduce compulsory marking of the country of origin on certain products that are imported into the EU from third countries. Origin marking would facilitate consumer choice and reduce fraudulent claims of declared origin. By implementing a common EU origin marking requirement, the EU would follow in the footsteps of some of its trading partners such as the United States, Canada, and Japan.

Since 2006, a lot of discussion has taken place concerning this “hot” topic, but until today, no harmonized legislation was implemented. Although the EU does (still) not have harmonized legislation on compulsory country of origin marking in place, many companies have already marked their products voluntarily with the country of origin. This is permitted, but when marking the product involved, the information should be accurate and correct. Any infringement and/or misleading markings is/are currently subject to local sanctions (e.g., penalties).

Recently, a report of the European Parliament was published on the Commission’s proposal for a Council Regulation on the indication of the country of origin of certain products imported from third countries. The report was adopted by a large majority of MEPs, whereby various amendments were made to the initial proposal of 2006. Besides various amendments to- or even the introduction of new recitals, the main amendments relate to:

  • Product scope (i.e. the term “goods” has been replaced by “end consumer products”);
  •  Reference is made to already existing “Made in” schemes worldwide;
  •  The language that should be used in order for consumers to easily understand the markings (i.e., the English language has also been “approved”);
  • The introduction of minimum common standards for penalties in case of breach of the rules.

Besides the above changes, there has been an update to the list of products to which the compulsory origin marking requirement would be applicable. Besides products that were already on the “2006 list” such as inter alia certain leather products, textiles and textile articles, footwear, ceramic products, glassware, and jewelry, “new” products that may be subject to compulsory origin marking include (not limited to) screws, bolts and similar articles of iron or steel, tools, taps, valves and similar appliances for pipes, boiler shells, tanks or the like, certain new pneumatic tires and inner tubes, contact lenses, spectacles, goggles and the like. This list can be further extended, after the approval of the European Parliament and Council.

The draft regulation still needs to be approved by the Council of Ministers. Once finally adopted, the new legislation will be applicable in all 27 EU Member States. At this time, several Member States are still opposed to a compulsory origin marking scheme. When adopted, the regulation shall enter into force on the 20th day following that of its publication in the Official Journal of the EU and shall apply 12 months after the entry into force.

The introduction of a compulsory marking scheme may impact your company, if products are imported that are included in the annex which are not yet voluntarily marked. Compliance with the rules will be key, recognizing that the fixation of an origin mark depends on the product involved.