An extraordinary row, involving major European and US industries, is blowing up over the European Commission’s determination to make it illegal, in three years’ time, for any products made in or imported into the EU to carry any reference to non-metric measures. Not only will this cost industries on both sides of the Atlantic billions of dollars and euros, but it is in direct breach of US federal law. The Commission is so set on stamping out the hated non-metric system that, as of January 1, 2010, it is imposing a total ban on what it calls “supplementary indications” – ie any mention of inches, pounds or other non-metric units in advertising, labelling, catalogues, manuals and the like…In other words, any US company wishing to sell to the EU will have to set up separate inventories and warehousing to ensure that its products carry no reference to non-metric units. Any European firm wishing to sell to the US will not be allowed to refer at all to the units its American customers understand. This in itself will be illegal under the US Fair Trade and Packaging Act, which permits use of metric units only so long as they are accompanied by a US non-metric “translation”…On November 9 there is to be a meeting at the Department of Trade and Industry, at which a range of bodies, including the Tyre Industry Federation and food and drink manufacturers (along with the British Weights and Measures Association), will put the case for flexibility, to prevent what Unice calls “damage to market actors”. But of course the DTI no longer has any power to decide. It can only plead in turn with our real government in Brussels, which has shown itself wholly immovable on this issue.
It’s a remarkable story, not only in itself, but for what it says about the very nature of the EU bureaucracy, protectionist, anti-American, and unable to tolerate (literally) an ounce of dissent. The US response should be uncompromising, and as for the UK, it’s powerless to do anything.