Brussels plans new tags for EU products

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The Independent Online

The EU could be about to gain a place in your kitchen cupboard, at your workplace and on your most intimate items of clothing. Plans are being discussed for products manufactured in Europe to be labelled "made in the EU".

The new identification tags would either run alongside or replace national labels.

The plan is being considered by the European Commission, in consultation with trade unions and companies.

Officials in Brussels argue that the move could help combat counterfeiting and promote the EU's image abroad as a rival to the world's other big trading blocs such as the US and Japan. The idea, promoted by Italy and Greece, may also have attractions for some small countries.

But others argue that the labels will confuse, rather than inform, consumers who want more precise information about the origin of products, particularly foodstuffs.

The plan would need the backing of a majority of countries and the UK would only consider EU labels if they were placed alongside national markings.

Other member states are also wary, and even Italy wants the new label to run alongside its own.

Arancha Gonzalez, the spokeswoman for the European Commissioner for trade, Pascal Lamy, said the options include compulsory and voluntary labelling and a system that complements national markings or one that replaces them. "We have not put any preferred option on the table for the time being," she said.

Last year Mr Lamy suggested a "made in the EU" label for European-made textiles and clothes.

But John Cridland, the deputy director-general of the Confederation of British Industry, said: "British business believes in giving customers what they want. The move would obscure where products have come from at a time when consumers are asking for more information."