German ban to hurt exports of HK, China dyes

BILLIONS of dollars of Hong Kong and mainland exports to Germany will suffer from next year following a ban by the German Government on certain types of dyes, and importers in Bonn are warning that other European countries are almost certain to follow suit.

Most affected will be exports of garments and textiles, but leather goods, shoes and toys will also be subject to the new restrictions, due to come into effect next month.

At the centre of the move is a ban on so-called AZO dyes which, although not harmful to consumers, are said to expose dyeing workers to risks of cancer.

So significant are the implications of the new German health ordinance that leading German importers and dye manufacturers have temporarily shelved their rivalries to organise briefings for manufacturers and exporters, not only in Hong Kong, but also in Singapore and Bangkok.

The new restrictions are accepted as a fait accompli by leading importers of the affected Hong Kong and China-made goods in Germany, by representatives of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Brussels and the Trade Development Council in Frankfurt.

Because of the short lead-time - importers became aware of the new restrictions only in June - lobbying efforts have gone into pushing back the introduction date.

All parties expect the Health Ministry in Bonn to announce on December 16 that the new restrictions on imports containing the dye will come into force in July next year, six months later than planned.

This would also push back the ban on sales of the affected goods by six months, to January 1996.

The quality control and safety manager for one of the leading importers of the affected items, Siegfried Regenberg, of the mail-order firm Quelle Schickedanz in Hamburg, said the short lead-time meant many manufacturers would find themselves with large stocks of dyes unusable for products earmarked for Germany, or with stockpiles of goods that could no longer be sent to the country.

'I think the real problems will start now,' Mr Regenberg said.

Thomas Thiel, Quelle's textile division manager in Hong Kong, said that even if the industry moved quickly to comply with the restrictions, a shortage of compliance testing capacity in Germany would mean inevitable bottlenecks in clearing imports.