FIGHTING "unfair competition" from emerging nations is the focus of the European Union Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Southern Africa, which was officially launched in Johannesburg on Wednesday.
The stated sources of unfair competition include Brazil, Russia, India and China, which along with SA make up the Brics bloc. Brics is in the process of setting up a new development bank as an alternative to the US-dominated World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
The €300,000 initiative to set up a new SA-based chamber came from the EU delegation in SA, EU chamber chairman of the board Stefan Sakoschek said on Thursday.
The EU is SA’s largest trading partner with about 2,000 European companies doing business in the country.
"We want a fair and competitive environment, especially in relation to Chinese imports," said Mr Sakoschek. "Southern Africa needs to be careful in balancing its trading partners.
"The EU chamber is to be the voice of the European private sector operating in SA. It took 20 months to make it happen."
Mr Sakoschek also said the new chamber aimed to influence South African and regional policy making, particularly in relation to substandard product imports from Asia. It would aim to influence policy pertaining to SA’s black economic empowerment policies, the country’s unilateral cancellation of bilateral investment treaties it holds with EU members, and issues such as visas, skills and immigration rules.
Corruption and a lack of customs skills in SA and in the region meant large numbers of imported goods were "undeclared in terms of value and quantity", and this was depriving countries of taxes, said Mr Sakoschek.
Jean-Michel Marnoto, vice-president of global key accounts at Bureau Vertitas Government Services and International Trade Division — an independent global testing, inspection and certification body — said Africa was flooded with fake pharmaceuticals.
He said poorly made products such as paraffin stoves could "get people killed". SA also re-exported such goods elsewhere in Africa.