EU Demands €251 Million from Belgium for Chinese Textile Import Oversight

Author: Benelux Chamber Shanghai



The European Commission demands €251 million from the Belgian government due to insufficient control over fraudulent Chinese textile imports. The state has temporarily set aside the amount, hoping it will be reduced after recalculations.

In July 2021, the Belgian state allocated over €251 million for the European Commission, a transaction that remained under the radar until recently when sister newspaper L'Echo obtained documents. The Federal Public Service Economy confirmed the move, stating the sum was made available on July 26, 2021, "subject to all rights." Spokesperson Francis Adyns clarified, "The payment is not yet final." Meanwhile, the European Commission continues recalculations and has decided Belgium can reclaim €51 million.

The Commission demanded the amount after the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) identified undervaluation of textiles and shoes from China. Companies shipping goods must declare their package values themselves and pay taxes accordingly.

OLAF reported a "systematic undervaluation" of Chinese packages, causing not only revenue loss but also unfair competition. The European Commission ruled that Belgium had done too little to prevent fraud, contrary to treaty obligations. Consequently, Belgium, along with countries like the Netherlands and Slovakia, may have to repay millions. The United Kingdom was even required to transfer €2.6 billion after an unsuccessful appeal to the European Court of Justice.



Belgium serves as a crucial gateway to Europe for Chinese clothing and shoes. Bierset Airport in Liège handles 3 to 4 million packages daily, with customs inspections conducted randomly. Despite awareness of the issue, control remains challenging due to the majority of packages originating from China.

Customs and Excise began dozens of lawsuits last year to recover millions from companies filing declarations for Chinese imports at Bierset Airport. One of these lawsuits mentioned Belgium's €251 million transaction to the European Commission.

Lawsuits against customs declarants at Bierset have so far been unsuccessful. The Criminal Court in Liège consistently ruled against the airport and the state in dozens of cases, deeming the Belgian customs system inadequate for calculating duties.


Sources: De Tijd