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European Union Import Duties (Israeli Settlements In The Occupied Territories)

Volume 402: debated on Thursday 3 April 2003

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Under the EU/Israel Association Agreement, goods originating in the State of Israel may be imported into the European Union at preferential rates of duty, including zero rates. Under Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and following United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, the international community, including all EU member states, does not recognise the territories which Israel occupied in June 1967 as part of the State of Israel. Goods originating from settlements in these occupied territories are therefore not entitled to the preferences of the EU/Israel Association Agreement.The EU/Israel Association Agreement entered into force on 1 June 2000. Article 32 of Protocol 4 provides for the verification of proofs of origin at the request of the importing state. It further provides that preference is to be refused where there is reasonable doubt as to entitlement and there is no reply within ten months, or the reply does not contain sufficient information to determine the real origin of the goods. The Israeli authorities confirmed in July 2001 that they export to the EU goods from settlements in the occupied territories while certifying that they have been produced in the State of Israel.Importers have been warned that importing goods produced in the occupied territories may give rise to a customs debt. The European Commission published such a warning in the Official Journal in November 2001, and HM Customs & Excise issued a Joint Customs Consultative Committee (JCCC) Information Paper to notify UK importers of this European Commission warning notice. Imports from Israeli settlements in the occupied territories can still be made to EU member states but will attract duty at the appropriate rate. Goods originating in the State of Israel can continue to be imported at preferential duty rates.Concerted action, organised by the European Commission, is being taken by customs authorities in all EU member states to ensure that goods produced in the settlements do not obtain preferential rates of duty to which they are not entitled. Customs & Excise issued a second JCCC Information Paper in March 2002 announcing how these arrangements would apply in the UK.Customs authorities are taking steps to identify imports of goods where there is evidence of occupied territory origin, taking security for duty and sending verification requests to the Israeli authorities, specifically asking whether the goods have been produced in an occupied territory. The standard Israeli reply, sent in response to all such requests, fails to answer the direct question, stating that the goods have been produced in an area that is under Israeli customs responsibility. This answer is insufficient to determine the real origin of the goods, and the Israeli authorities have been told so on each occasion.In a written answer I gave to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Richard Burden) on 4 February 2003,

Official Report, column 181W, I outlined the action Customs & Excise have been taking in the UK. In line with our obligations under the Community Customs Code [Council Regulation (EEC) No 2913/92], and as the ten month deadline is reached, Customs & Excise have now begun issuing duty demands to UK importers where there is reason to suspect that goods may have originated in Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.