China to cut import duties on luxury goods soon -report

BEIJING, June 20 Mon Jun 20, 2011 1:07am EDT

BEIJING, June 20 (Reuters) - China, already the world's second-largest luxury goods market, will soon slash import duties on opulent items to encourage wealthy local shoppers to buy more pricey cosmetics, watches and liquor, Chinese media said on Monday.

China's high import duties of 50 percent for cosmetics and 30 percent for high-end watches have driven many rich Chinese consumers to shop in Hong Kong, London and Paris, a trend that several Chinese ministries want to change, the 21st Century Business Herald reported.

Citing unidentified sources, the paper said China's finance ministry may unveil a revamped tax system before the National Day holiday in October so that Chinese consumers can buy luxury brands such as Christian Dior and Louis Vuitton at home over the Christmas and New Year holidays.

The bid to keep well-heeled Chinese shoppers at home is in line with Beijing's over-arching plan to boost domestic consumption and cut China's dependence on exports to drive its economy, the world's second largest.

With the new taxes, duties on imported cosmetics, milk powder, watches, clothes, suitcases and shoes are expected to be reduced or even scrapped entirely, it said.

Luxury good makers and government officials from the finance and commerce ministries have held closed-door meetings to discuss China's new tax model, the newspaper reported.

Owing to hefty import taxes, prices of 20 luxury brands of watches, suitcases, clothes, liquor and consumer electronics in China are 45 percent higher than those in Hong Kong, 51 percent higher than U.S. prices, and 72 percent higher than French prices, a study by China's commerce ministry showed.

Chinese tourists are the biggest group of foreign shoppers in France, buying 650 million euros ($933.7 million) of duty free items in 2010, a recent survey by Global Refund showed.

Investment group CLSA forecasts that China will become the world's largest market for luxury goods by 2020 as China's burgeoning middle class indulges in high living. ($1 = 0.696 Euros) (Reporting by Zhou Xin and Koh Gui Qing)

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