EU launches inquiry into Chinese medical device procurement practices

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Photo source: VCG

24th April 2024 – (Brussels) The European Union has initiated an investigation into the procurement practices of medical devices by China, citing concerns over potential discrimination against non-domestic suppliers in favour of local manufacturers. This inquiry, which marks the first under the EU’s International Procurement Instrument, aims to ensure fair access to procurement markets globally, according to a statement released in the EU’s official journal.

The EU alleges that China’s procurement policies systematically disadvantage European businesses by promoting the “Buy China” ethos, potentially contravening international trade norms. The investigation will also examine if restrictive measures and practices in China are skewing the competitive landscape by fostering conditions that lead to unsustainably low bids from companies focused on profitability.

“This probe is crucial for maintaining the integrity of international trade and ensuring that European operators can compete on a level playing field,” the EU journal noted.

The investigation could have significant implications for bilateral relations, as it may result in restricted access for Chinese companies to the lucrative public procurement market across the EU’s 27 member states. The findings of the inquiry are expected within nine months, with a possible extension of five months if required.

China, home to the world’s second-largest medical devices market valued at approximately €135 billion in 2022, has been invited by the European Commission to present its perspective and engage in consultations aimed at addressing the concerns raised.

The move comes amid a broader strategy by the EU to reduce dependency on external entities, a priority that has gained urgency following Europe’s energy crisis triggered by geopolitical tensions in Ukraine. Recent months have seen Brussels intensify scrutiny over Chinese subsidies across various sectors, including green technologies such as wind turbines, solar panels, and electric mobility solutions.

Additionally, the European Parliament’s recent approval of a law banning products made with forced labour, aimed predominantly at goods originating from China, underscores the growing cautious stance in Brussels towards Beijing.

The launch of this probe is juxtaposed with heightened tensions, highlighted by yesterday’s arrest in Germany of an aide to a European Parliament member, on charges of espionage for China. This incident may further strain the EU-China relations.