Intervention from the European Court of Justice and UK parliamentary debate have highlighted the misuse of the “Made in Israel” label on some products.
A recent demonstration, (8/3/10) against the Israeli food producer Agrexco, in the French Mediterranean port of Sete has once again raised the thorny subject of the inaccuracy of the labelling of Israeli export goods.
Commenting on the demonstration, Sud de France General Secretary Tannich Coupe said, “The EU and Israel have agreed that Israel will get preferential import taxes [reference to EU-Israeli Trade Agreement] on one condition, the goods should not come from occupied territories. But we know Agrexco grows its products in the occupied area and is still benefiting from tax deductions.”
By the time the French took to the streets, the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg had already ruled (25/2/10) on the subject following an appeal to them by a German court. The case involved an Israeli company’s attempt to take advantage of preferential trade tariffs by labeling their products “Made in Israel” although they were actually made in the West Bank.
The court’s ruling said, “The European Union, [which has responsibility for the EU-Israel Trade Agreement] takes the view that products obtained in locations which have been placed under Israeli administration since 1967 do not qualify for the preferential treatment provided for under [the EC-Israel agreement].”
EU-Israel Trade Agreement
From a UK perspective a closer examination of the problem was made during a parliamentary debate on the EU-Israel Trade Agreement. Labour party MP Dr Phyllis Starkey outlining the status quo said that In February 2005, the EU introduced a technical arrangement that said that goods from Israel must be marked with their place of origin and postcode, in order that customs authorities could recognize settlement [West Bank] goods and prevent fraudulent obtaining of exemption duty.
The MP specifically mentions a number of Israeli companies implicated in the ongoing dispute over product labeling including Brita water-carbonating machines, the company involved in the German court case.
She said when challenged on their “Made in Israel” labeling Brita said the goods were made “under Israeli customs administration.” Dr Starkey said the German authorities, in the absence of proof that they were made in Israel within the pre-1967 borders, simply levied the higher rate of import duty.
AHAVA Dead Sea Laboratories
She continued by turning her attention to [Israeli] Dead Sea products which she referred to as an area where “blatant fraud” is occurring. She acknowledged that according to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) all Dead Sea cosmetics were marked “Made in Israel.” However she said she wanted to focus on AHAVA a company part owned by two co-operatives in the West Bank settlements of Mizpe Shalem and Kibbutz Kalia (manufactured at Mizpe Shalem) and not within Israel’s pre 1967 borders.
Referring to the statutory necessity of displaying a postcode on Israeli goods exported to the EU she confirmed that AHAVA used the postcode for their head office and not the manufacturing base as required.
Dr Starkey said when Israeli authorities were challenged on inaccurate labelling they replied, “The Dead Sea treasures are international and do not belong to one nation.”
Does AHAVA Violate Article 55 of Hauge Regulations?
Another element to the parliamentary debate was the question of whether AHAVA and others were violating article 55 of the Hague regulations on exporting non-renewable resources from an occupied territory.
The debate concluded with the rather bland statement that HMRC would continue to work with the European Commission and other government departments to ensure compliance with the rules.
Press TV, French protest import of Israeli settlement goods, website accessed 6/5/10
Court of Justice for the European Union, press release no 14/10, Products originating in the West Bank do not qualify for preferential customs treatment under the EC-Israel Agreement, 25 February 2010
BBC, EU: Goods made at Jewish settlements are not Israeli. website accessed 6/5/10
Read more at Suite101: Inaccurate Labelling Of Israeli Dead Sea Cosmetics http://international-tariffs.suite101.com/article.cfm/inaccurate-labelling-of-israeli-dead-sea-cosmetics#ixzz0qN7sD5Ic