Due to the measures taken by the government to prevent the spread of COVID-19, many questions arise about the export of goods from Belgium and within the European Union. The Belgian Foreign Trade Agency regularly informs and updates Belgian companies about certain rules and guidelines in the form of "legal alerts".
Following are some of our latest legal alerts:
Producing new protective equipment for the EU market
The EU Commission is considering all means to increase the production and supply of protective equipment in the EU. These include
- identifying and deploying support measures to increase the capacity of existing EU manufacturing facilities
- reaching out to companies that are not active in the EU market
- converting production lines from other industrial sectors, such as the textile sector, to produce protective equipment
The European Commission published guidance for manufacturers to help economic operators to assess whether they can convert their existing facilities to produce protective equipment. It details applicable EU legal frameworks and steps that manufacturers need to take to place their products on the EU market.
Increasing production capacity and accelerating approval of protective equipment
European harmonised standards are technical specifications used by industry to ensure compliance with the legislative safety requirements, enabling unhindered market access. Normally, companies purchase harmonised standards from national members of the European standardisation organisations and their use is restricted by Intellectual property rights (IPR) rules.
In response to the current situation and at the request of the European Commission, the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) and the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardisation (CENELEC) have agreed to make a set of European standards for medical devices and personal protective equipment used in the fight against covid-19, available free of charge.
In Belgium, the NBN temporarily makes various standards for respiratory protective equipment available free of charge.
More information about the freely available standards can be found here
Guidelines on how to use the public procurement framework
On March 31, the European Commission published guidelines on how to use all the flexibility offered by the EU procurement framework in the context of the emergency situation caused by the coronavirus outbreak. The guidelines provide an overview of the procurement procedures for public purchasers, the applicable deadlines, and examples of how administrations can find alternative solutions and ways to approach the corporate world to deliver much-needed medical supplies. This guidance makes it easier for public purchasers to provide essential protective equipment and medical supplies to those in need, by making it easier to carry out public procurement contracts while maintaining high safety and quality standards.
"Below is a message from our embassy in Beijing - Source: FPS Foreign Affairs - Directorate-General for Bilateral Affairs - Economic Interests - B3
Subject: The Chinese social credit system in times of COVID-19
A webinar organised by the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China (EUCCC) on the impact of the corporate social credit system (SCS) on SMEs and its implications in times of COVID-19 shows that the system is here to stay and that mainly local governments are linking things to the corona crisis that were not eligible for it before.
At the central level, prior to the crisis, there was a pause in policy making regarding SCS. At lower levels of government, however, there is an increase in the number of measures. Several trends are emerging:
- Bad behavior is punished not only for individuals (breaking quarantine, lying about health status, spreading rumors, etc.) but also for government officials (impeding information flows, slow or lying reporting, etc.) and companies (hoarding, raising prices, fake sell products, etc.). Penalties for companies can include being on the watchlist or blacklist of these companies or their legal representatives, exclusion from participation in government contracts, limited access to financial grants.
- Good behavior is rewarded. Individuals who are going to help in the hard-hit Hubei province and who are on the front line of prevention activities can count on extra points. For companies, this involves the production and transport of necessary medical equipment, donations, contributions to market stability, temporary switch-over of production, etc.
- There is a wide range of locally widely varying SCS support measures, with a focus on avoiding blacklisting companies. For example, in several places there is an exemption from road tax for vehicles transporting emergency aid or rescuers and local governments help restore credit points by providing proof of 'force majeur' and by offering legal assistance ('help enterprises repair credit'). The list of local support measures is very long and varied.
What does this mean for companies in concrete terms?
- Companies that want to put themselves in the spotlight and have the opportunity to do something extra can now collect extra social credits.
- In case of financial or other difficulties, one can check whether the local government has implemented emergency measures.
It was already clear that the social credit system is being used as an additional means of enforcing government policies. But linking COVID-19 measures to the SCS also shows that its boundaries are not clearly defined, which local governments are eagerly taking advantage of. The consequences of this will only become fully clear after the corona crisis."
"Measures in other countries (source - Forum National)
In view of the current crisis situation, countries worldwide are taking all kinds of measures that affect international trade in goods. The World Customs Organization (WCO) provides a list of national measures of countries that impose temporary export restrictions on certain categories of medical supplies.
In addition, the WCO provides information on tools, initiatives and databases that you can use to address the various COVID-19-related challenges. You can consult the overview here.
Finally, you can find information on the European Commission's website about the measures that the Member States are taking specifically in the field of transport and border controls."
“Guidelines for border management measures to protect health and ensure the availability of goods and essential services. The coronavirus crisis has highlighted the challenge of protecting the health of the population whilst avoiding disruptions to the free movement of persons, and the delivery of goods and essential services across Europe. The guidelines set out principles for an integrated approach to an effective border management to protect health while preserving the integrity of the Single Market.” Source: European Commission: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_20_468
“Prohibition of export of medical personal protective equipment without an export license - crisis situation caused by the coronavirus, the General Administration of Customs & Excise (AAD&A) will monitor this ban very strictly. The AAD&A considers any export of goods against the requirements of the said implementing regulation as a serious violation.” Source: Forum National
"Update and new rules for export licenses for the export of medical personal protective equipment." Source : Forum National : https://www.naforna.be/fr