French cosmetics sector seeks reprieve on Chinese import rules

PARIS — France’s world-leading cosmetics sector is counting on talks between Xi Jinping and Emmanuel Macron next week to help minimize the impact on French companies of tough new Chinese import rules requiring the sharing of formulas and manufacturing know-how. 

President Xi’s first visit to Europe in five years comes amid a backdrop of tense trade relations, with the European Union threatening China’s electric vehicle and green energy industries with tariffs. 

But progress toward an agreement between France and China on the regulation of cosmetics, including lipstick and fragrances, could be a bright spot in discussions in Paris next week. 

President Macron’s office said ahead of the meeting that cosmetics would be a topic of “great attention,” and that they sought to “find a solution that also protects the interests of our companies.” 

France is the world’s leading cosmetics exporter, shipping nearly 2 billion euros ($2.15 billion) worth of makeup and skin care products to China last year, second in importance only to aerospace products. 

New Chinese safety rules due to come into effect next year threaten that trade. 

From May 2025, cosmetics exporters will be required to share detailed information on their manufacturing processes with Beijing and receive Chinese inspectors in their factories, a measure that raises concerns about losing control of intellectual property. 

Under a plan proposed in talks between the two sides in the past year, French authorities would take responsibility for assuring the safety of some of its exports without the need for Chinese inspections. 

France would grant some similar measures to China, but it was not clear what areas those would cover. 

“This reciprocity will assure the highest standards of safety to Chinese consumers,” said Emmanuel Guichard, secretary general of France’s cosmetics industry association FEBEA, adding that the plan could be formalized during talks between Xi and Macron. 

FEBEA’s members include L’Oreal, LVMH and Coty. 

Under the agreement, France’s consumer and anti-fraud watchdog DGCCRF would ensure the safety of a number of French manufacturers that qualify for “white list” status. 

The agency said in a report issued Friday on its recent activities that it held its first meeting on certification of French cosmetics for export to China with China’s National Medical Products Administration, or NMPA, in December. 

The Elysee did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

The DGCCRF did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The NMPA could not be reached for comment on a holiday weekend. Sunday is Labor Day in China, recognized as a national holiday. 

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