Led by counterfeiters in Thailand, Asia accounts for two-thirds of all fake goods confiscated along the borders of EU states, according to fresh statistics gathered by EU's directorate general of taxation and customs, officials said.

  

"This problem is serious, has created a shadow economy and supersedes existing structures in investment, innovation and trade and stifles creativity," Rainer Osterwalder, spokesman for the European Patent Office, said in the Filipino capital Manila.

  

Daily necessities

 

"What is worse is it puts consumers' health and security at serious risk," he said, citing a list of fake goods to Europe from Asia ranging from daily necessities like toothbrush, razor blades and detergent to Viagra, palm-tops and vehicle-brake pads.

  

Osterwalder was speaking after the opening on Tuesday of an international conference in Manila on the role of customs in combating counterfeit and piracy, organised by the Germany-based European Patent Office, the European Commission and the intellectual property office of the Philippines.

  

"We are here not to lecture Asia on what should be done but to work closely to tackle the (problem) through sharing of expertise and best practices, especially in detecting possible counterfeit cargo," he said.

  

"What is worse is it puts consumers' health and security at serious risk"

Rainer Osterwalder
spokesman, European Patent Office

The one-week conference is attended by more than 80 customs and other experts from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and EU to update developments on border enforcement and customs operations, said Supapohn Kanwerayotin, spokesman for the EU-ASEAN intellectual property rights cooperation programme.

 

Transhipment point

 

Officials from EU's directorate general of taxation and customs told the conference that Thailand was a top transhipment point for Asia's counterfeit goods seized in Europe in 2002.

  

China remains the biggest manufacturer of such goods in the region, they said.

  

The EU recently expressed concern over China's enforcement on intellectual property rights, calling it "unacceptable."

  

China is a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), under which protection of intellectual property rights is secured by provisions of the so-called TRIPS agreement.

  

Of the total seizures in Europe in 2002, Thailand alone accounted for 43%, according to EU statistics. Substantial fake exports also came from China (15%), Hong Kong (5%) and Malaysia (3%).

 

The officials also said that Asia accounted for two-thirds of the 87 million counterfeit items seized in Europe last year, a whopping 800% jump from the 10 million items confiscated in 1998.