By Staff writer
Free zones, including JAFZA, are being exploited by counterfeiters of FMCG products, according to the WCO
Dubai's Jebel Ali Free Zone has become one of the world’s worst offending centres for the trans-shipment of counterfeit consumer goods, according to experts at the World Customs Organisation (WCO). The counterfeit goods, which include vodka, champagne, soft drinks and perfume, are mainly produced in China but are moved through free trade areas such as Jebel Ali Free Zone in order to deceive customs authorities as to their real origin.
“It is a problem – a huge problem,” said Christophe Zimmermann, an intellectual property rights specialist at the WCO. “I would say 70% and 80% of the counterfeit goods are produced in China, but our concern now is that they are not coming directly from China. They are being trans-shipped through other different companies and in particular through free zones.”
He added that counterfeiters are trans-shipping their wares through free zones in a bid to stay one step ahead of customs authorities, which check a higher proportion of shipments entering ports from countries deemed suspicious.
Dubai, and in particular Jebel Ali Free Zone, is increasingly viewed as a hotspot for the trans-shipment of counterfeits, according to Zimmermann.
“For the EU customs figures, every year Dubai is in the top-five countries where counterfeit goods reaching Europe come from,” he said.
“Jebel Ali Free Zone is our main important concern at the moment. It’s one of the most active free zones in counterfeit traffic.”
Furthermore, the problem has become so bad that most shipments from Dubai are now considered suspicious by foreign customs authorities.
“It could be a very bad thing for Dubai because we integrated it as a hot potato in our risk analysis, so every container coming from Dubai will be checked,” Zimmermann said.
“Dubai now is as important as China [for counterfeits], and we don’t make any distinction between the two, because we know that the traffic is coming through Dubai and being reexported all around the world.”
But despite the problem, Zimmermann is keen to stress that the situation can improve. The WCO is set to focus on the issue from the beginneing of 2007. “For us it’s a top priority that 2007 will be the year of the fight against counterfeiting and piracy.
Our secretary general indicates that we will produce a framework of IPR standards dedicated to better custom enforcement.
“We have launched an action plan dedicated to the fight against counterfeiting all around the world. We launched a framework of IPR standards and we have 45 operational measures to fight against counterfeiting and piracy.”
He added that these recommendations will be presented at the beginning of December to WCO directors and that the WCO will multiply the amount training technical seminars.
Representatives from Jebel Ali Free Zone were unavailable for comment.