‘Made in China’ loses ground to European wares

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‘Made in China’ loses ground to European wares

European-made daily necessity products are becoming increasingly competitive because of the free trade agreement with the European Union, while Chinese products are getting more expensive after the country’s labor costs rose by about 20 percent, according to the retail industry and trade-related agencies yesterday.

Laundry baskets and clothes horses from France and Italy are gaining popularity as they beat Chinese counterparts in terms of price, brand image and quality, retailers said.

On the shelves of local stores, the number of European products more than tripled to 165 in 2011 from a year earlier. Sales jumped about 2.5 times last year.

“The slowdown in European economies that caused the euro’s value to fall enhanced price competitiveness of European products,” said an official at Korea Customs Service. “Owing to the Korea-EU FTA, tariffs on products from the European continent have been lowered by around 8 percent.”

According to Lotte Mart, the price of a 25-liter laundry basket from France declined from 7,900 won ($7.27) in 2010 to 5,800 won last year. That of a similar Chinese product rose from 5,400 won to 6,500 won during the same period.

French products became about 10 percent cheaper than Chinese rivals, due to the strong won. The euro-won exchange rate hovered around 1,400 won at the end of last year, falling by more than 10 percent from 2011.

According to the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency, the minimum wage for Chinese workers soared by 21.7 percent in major provinces last year.

“Not only because of lower prices, but also the image of European-made products, which are considered by local consumers more luxurious and better in quality, European grocery products are enjoying growing popularity in the local market,” said a spokeswoman at Lotte Mart.

European manufacturers have their eyes on the Asian market as the European economy undergoes a longer-than-expected recession and depressed consumption in the wake of the sovereign debt crisis, according to the Ministry of Knowledge Economy.

At a fair to promote consumer goods in Frankfurt last week, companies from 15 European countries tried to attract the attention of Asian buyers, a official at the ministry said.

By Song Su-hyun [ssh@joongang.co.kr]
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