EU and U.S. Technological Barriers “Besiege” China LED Lighting Exports Again

Important global LED application bases, the EU and U.S. high technology demands, safety standards, and technological barriers are impacting China’s LED exports. These technological barriers have become the biggest export obstacle for Chinese LED lighting products, such as LED strip display. In recent months, the EU and U.S. raised import standards are adding to the woes of Chinese LED lighting manufacturers and putting China’s 8,000 plus LED manufacturers on an arduous road to export goods. In the overseas market, Chinese manufacturers are “under siege” by Europe, U.S. and Japan’s technological barriers, and with a sluggish domestic market, manufacturers face an embarrassing oversupply situation.

The International Lighting Standard IEC62560-2011 states, lighting fixtures manufactured for normal use should not have contactable live parts after installation and wiring or during replacements of lighting source or starters with lights on, even when not manually operated. Inspectors have found on several routine export inspections, many manufacturers LED lamps still have a live electric part after the lamp holder was plugged into the lamp stand.

In a recent inspection, Wuxi Entry-Exit Inspection Quarantine Bureau found an exporting manufacturer’s general lighting used self-ballasted LED lamp. Due to the unreasonable structure, the product was declared unqualified and could not be exported. 

The EU, U.S., Chile, Uganda and other country and regions have set higher thresholds for directional light and LED product imports, according to the Administration of Quality and Technology Supervision of Guangdong Province’s WTO/TBT Center. More stringent requirements and higher standards are placed on LED lighting products to incorporate energy saving, eco-design, energy efficiency labels, tests and inspections, performance, safety, size, weight and shape. For instance, the EU requires high energy efficiency for table lamps and LED lamps.

According to statistics, in 2012 Ningbo exported a total of 56,000 lamps valuing USD 1.45 billion, an increase of 12% and 23% respectively compared to 2011. In terms of product types, main export products are still traditional luminaries including outdoor lamps, solar lamps, and work lights, which accounted for 30% of total exports and increased 33% compared to a year earlier. As for the “new force” of LED lamps, exports have increased over the years and now make up 22% of total exports, a jump of 47% compared to last year. EU is still the “main front” for outdoor lamp exports, accounting for 51% of total exports up 13% compared to last year. The U.S. market is also more important, and accounts for 20% of total exports, soaring 48% compared to 2011. As for inspection results, the number of unqualified export lamps was down 40% in 2012, a slight decrease of 0.41% compared to a year earlier.

Affected by price, China's domestic LED market demands remained insufficient. Most products are still exported to overseas markets, which is why the recent LED product standard raise will greatly impact manufacturers with an export focus.

"Enterprises should be positive about EU's regulation that raises the bar for entry," said Paul Nie, President of Leading Testing Laboratories (LTL). "Standardization and internationalization are inevitable trends, and there are going to be further raises in the future." Nie appears to know "in advance" pointing out the two main indicators for lighting are safety and product performance. Lighting manufacturers have always been more focused on safety issues, but as lighting enters the LED era, the market will certainly increase demands on product performance.

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