Peter Mandelson, the E.U.’s Trade Commissioner, touched a couple of raw nerves in his speech at the opening of a two-day international food-safety forum in Beijing on Monday: product safety and counterfeiting, saying that China, can’t solve the problems of the former without dealing with the latter first.
Mandelson said about half of the 1,000 product safety violations registered last year by the E.U.’s monitoring system were for non-food products made in China, a number that looks set to rise by 50% this year. Eight out of 10 fake products — including medicines — seized at Europe’s borders are made in Chin, he says.
He also brushed aside China’s progress on product safety issues, saying “Some Chinese officials pointed out that less than 1% of China’s exports to Europe had alleged health risks. But Europe imports half a billion euros worth of goods from China every day, so even 1% is not acceptable”.
Mandelson’s words got any icy reception from Vice Premier Wu Yi, who is heading up China’s task force on product safety and declared hereself “dissatisfied” by the speech.
Mandelson is known for not mincing his words but his speech reflects the frustration in Brussels over the E.U.’s growing range of issues with China beyond product safety, including a ballooning trade deficit, restrictions on access to the Chinese market for European firms and the slow pace of revaluation of the yuan against the euro.
With the regular China-E.U. meeting due to be held in Beijing on Wednesday, the tone is starting to sound a lot like the discussions between China and the U.S. — by no means a wholesome turn of events.