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MEPs back country of origin labels

Clothing and footwear imported from outside the European Union could be bound by law to state its origin following a landslide vote in European Parliament.

Some 525 MEPs voted in favour of the proposed legislation compared to just 49 votes against. There were 44 abstentions.

The detail of the legislation still needs to be thrashed out before it is formally passed, but the vote is being seen as a major boon for British and Italian manufacturers, whose product is considered to be higher quality than their counterparts in many other Eastern and Southern European countries.

The impact of the new ruling will depend on how much of an item of footwear or clothing has to be made in a country before it is classified as coming from there.

“It’s certainly about more than just polishing shoes and putting them in a box, but it has to be clarified a great deal,” said chief executive of the British Footwear Association Richard Kottler.

Many manufacturers already label garments with their country of origin but do so on a voluntary basis.

There is still a question mark over whether the new rule will apply primarily to footwear and leather goods, or whether it will extend to apparel of all materials.

Vito Artioli, president of the National Association of Italian Footwear Manufacturers (ANCI), which has been campaigning for the rule change, hailed the vote as “an important victory” for “fair and transparent trade conditions”.

“The introduction of the ‘made in’ regulation means re-establishing consumers’ right to have transparent information on the merchandise they purchase and its place of origin, with the resulting possibility of an informed choice.

For Italian and European companies, “made in” is a more than legitimate right to greater protection against counterfeiting, protection for companies that work transparently, and protection for employment,” he said.

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