Minister of Justice Anna Richardson (centre), her delegation, and the LVMH Group Brand Executives at the LVMH Group Headquarters in Paris.
PHILIPSBURG–Brand executives of Luis Vuitton, Moët Hennessy and PUMA are impressed with the actions taken by the Ministry of Justice to raise awareness on counterfeit goods, said Minister of Justice Anna Richardson who was invited to a meeting in Paris last month. “It was truly an honour to be welcomed by and meet the different brand executives in a bid to discuss brand protection and brand exposure for St. Maarten,” Richardson said.
During the minister’s work visit to Europe in October, to attend the UN Human Right Council hearing in Geneva, the minister travelled via Paris where she was introduced to stakeholders such as the LVMH Group and Unifab.
Created in 1987, the LVMH Group today comprises more than 75 exceptional Maisons, each of which creates high-quality products. It is the only group present in all five major sectors of the luxury market: Wines and Spirits, Fashion and Leather Goods, Perfumes and Cosmetics, Watches and Jewellery, and Selective Retailing. In addition, Unifab is a French association that includes 300 brands from all sectors of activity and promotes and defends Intellectual Property against counterfeiting.
Minister Richardson and a small delegation consisting of Interim Director of Foreign Relations Patrice Gumbs and Senior Legal Policy Advisor of Judicial Affairs Geertje van Haperen met with Brand Executives of the LVMH Group (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy), Union des Fabricants (Unifab), PUMA, and DISOSA Brand Protection Services.
The discussions with Moët Hennessy focused on the activities of the Minister, including the need to ensure that consumer protection and the health of the people of St. Maarten are at the centre of all anti-counterfeiting initiatives.
The meeting with the LVMH Group, led by Deputy Director of Markets Protection Leo Longauer and supported by Brand Protection Manager Georges Geoffroy, began with an introduction to the brand, its strategy, and its approach to counterfeiting.
“Collectively the LVMH Group invests a lot in anti-counterfeiting actions and to have a Government official come to us to support these initiatives and to understand, how supporting anti-counterfeiting can also have benefits for the country, itself is very refreshing and we are looking forward to assisting St. Maarten,” stated Longauer.
Minister Richardson outlined her approach within the context of the recently launched National Development Vision (NDV), the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as the importance of a reputable international image and strategic partnerships that form part of the foreign policy of St. Maarten.
“The conference in September sparked a lot of interest not only locally but regionally and internationally as well,” Richardson said. “For me it is important to keep the momentum going, capitalising on the relationships we’ve built thus far to create a sustainable and viable economy, under the rule of law for St. Maarten.”
The minister met with Director-General of Unifab Delphine Sarfati-Sobreira at the Unifab Headquarters in Paris. The Minister has prioritised anti-counterfeiting as part of her agenda. “My rationale for this is threefold: Firstly, and most naturally as Minister of Justice, I note that counterfeiting is illegal, fraudulent, and undermines intellectual property rights. Proceeds from counterfeit products often play a significant role in money laundering and financing illicit activities. Secondly, counterfeit goods and products (beverages, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, luxury goods) are often not subjected to the rigorous standards and code of ethics that legitimately made equivalents are. The potential impact of consuming these counterfeit items on the health and environment of the people of St. Maarten has my attention. Thirdly, the high visibility and prevalence of counterfeit goods undermine the quality of our economic product. As a tourism-based economy, I am cognisant of the impact this has on our ability to cultivate a sustainable and quality product, especially in comparison to our competitors, but also how it impacts our ability to and rate of recovery following hurricanes Irma and Maria as well as the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The meeting concluded with agreements to engage in an MOU for cooperation and support of the Department of Customs, the creation of campaign material specific to Sint Maarten, and a follow-up conference in Sint Maarten in the first quarter of 2023. Director of Unifab Sarfati-Sobreira was quoted as saying “rarely has a government shown such demonstrated commitment, passion, and enthusiasm in fighting counterfeiting and we are pleased to partner with St. Maarten in this initiative”.
Both companies commended Minister Richardson on her recent cooperation with Unifab to explore how more brands may be introduced to Sint Maarten and expressed that this is a step in the right direction to streamlining Sint Maarten’s initiatives and ensuring brand confidence in the economy and market of the island. Brand Protection Manager for Moët Hennessy, Flavie Jost, stated: “I am so pleased with the meetings that we were able to set up for the St. Maarten delegation, the commitment, and very complete vision of the Minister of Justice and the Government of St. Maarten. We will continue to find ways to build on our new relationship.”
Richardson stressed: “As Minister of Justice, I want to ensure that St. Maarten is a location that sees to it that what is imported are authentic products that are safe for consumption by our residents and visitors.”