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EU targets the likes of Temu and Shein with cheap goods crackdown

Pages from the Shein website, left, and from the Temu site, right, are shown in this photo. June 23, 2023.
Pages from the Shein website, left, and from the Temu site, right, are shown in this photo. June 23, 2023. Copyright Richard Drew/AP
Copyright Richard Drew/AP
By Eleanor Butler
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Cheap products from China are currently exempt from EU import duties, although FT sources say this could soon change.


The European Commission is preparing to apply customs duties on cheap products coming from China, according to three sources cited by the Financial Times.

Under current rules, goods under €150 can be imported into the bloc duty free from non-EU countries.

For products over this threshold, the percentage or rate varies depending on the type of goods. 

The move, said one source, is intended to combat an influx of low-quality products imported from Chinese online marketplaces Temu, AliExpress, and retailer Shein.

2.3 billion items below the €150 threshold were imported into the EU last year, according to the Commission. 

Looking at all goods, China was the bloc's largest import provider last year, accounting for 20.5% of goods coming into the EU.

The Commission had been discussing an end to the duty-free exemption as part of a customs reform suggested in May 2023, although some believe this step could now be brought forward.

Duties would only be imposed on retailers shipping to the EU from outside the bloc.

This means that sellers with a base in Europe like Amazon are unlikely to be strung.

Some fear that new customs duties would stretch the capacity of already overburdened customs officials, while others argue the crackdown on cheap goods is important for European safety.

In February, the Toy Industries of Europe group claimed it bought 19 toys from Temu and complained that none complied with EU standards. It added that 18 presented a grave risk for children, although all of these products have since been removed from Temu's EU site.

Complaints about other cheap products concern Chinese cosmetics, electrical appliances, and clothes.

"We are fully supportive of efforts by lawmakers to reform the de minimis provision," a spokesperson for Shein told Reuters.

Commission spokesperson Eric Mamer said in a midday briefing on Wednesday that the EU had nothing new to add concerning plans drawn up in 2023.

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