Goods imported from outside the EU should clearly state their country of origin, to help consumers make informed choices, say MEPs. Parliament is proposing to allow the country of origin to be indicated in English on labels of goods sold anywhere in the EU. It would also like to see harmonised penalties for breaching the rules
While many European companies have already been using "made in" indications voluntarily, the EU does not have harmonised rules on stating the origin of imported goods, except for certain cases in the agriculture sector.
If the country of origin is clear, consumers can make informed choices to help guard against health risks, counterfeiting and unfair competition, says Parliament in its first-reading report, drafted by Cristiana Muscardini (EPP, IT) and adopted on Thursday with 525 votes in favour, 49 against and 44 abstentions. MEPs also believe that disparities between labelling practices within the EU are leading to a situation where third countries shift their exports towards particular European points of entry which suit them most.
Prior to the final vote, MEPs had turned down a proposal to reject the law as a whole, by a show of hands.
Under the proposed new rules, country-of-origin markings will have to appear on a wide range of products such as textiles, footwear, furniture and pharmaceutical products, and even tools, screws and taps.
The new law will apply only to goods destined for final consumers but not to products from the European Union, Turkey, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein.
Under the Commission proposal, the words "made in", together with the country of origin, must be stated "in a language that is easily understood by consumers in the Member State where the goods are to be marketed. MEPs adopted an amendment to allow the use of English, as a possible alternative, anywhere in the EU.
Parliament also insisted that the Commission must propose minimum EU-wide penalties for infringement, to ensure the rules are applied uniformly in all Member States.
As amended by MEPs, the law would expire five years after its entry into force. However, one year before its scheduled expiry, Parliament and the Council would be required to decide whether to prolong or amend it.
The draft law still needs to be approved by the Council, where some Member States are still opposed to the idea of a European "made in" law.
Once finally adopted by both Parliament and Council, the new rules will be applicable in all Member States starting one year after publication in the EU Official Journal.