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EU states agree two-year tariffs on Chinese and Vietnamese shoe imports

EU states agree two-year tariffs on Chinese and Vietnamese shoe imports

European Union states agreed on Wednesday to impose tariffs on Chinese and Vietnamese shoe imports for two years to prevent cheap imports flooding local markets.
Starting Saturday, the EU will levy an extra charge of 16.5 percent for shoes from China and 10 percent from Vietnam. These will affect 11 out of every 100 pair of shoes sold in Europe _ including children's footwear.
The European Commission said this could add euro1.40 (US$1.79) to the average retail price of Chinese shoes selling for euro35 (US$44.83) in Europe if importers and retailers choose to pass the full cost on to customers.
It asked EU member states to back antidumping duties, alleging that China and Vietnam broke World Trade Organization rules by subsidizing shoe manufacturers and selling below-cost goods in Europe.
Both nations reject the charges and accuse the EU of protectionism.
EU nations had been split on measures to protect European industry from cheap imports and could not agree on an earlier proposal to impose tariffs for up to five years. Still, a slim majority of 13 states on Wednesday agreed not to block a compromise of two years. Nine voted in favor, four abstained and twelve voted against.
"Northern liberals" such as Britain, Germany and Scandinavian nations opposed duties in the name of free trade and in favor of their own importers. Meanwhile, southern European countries, such as Italy, Spain and Greece, said they needed to protect their craft and textile industries against illegal imports.
The Commission said European footwear production has shrunk by 30 percent since 2001 with the loss of 40,000 jobs, as shoe imports surged.
Despite months of stalemate with EU nations unable to agree on shoe duties, Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson insisted that all countries back trade defense instruments if illegal dumping is taking place.
"What we've got to do is to make sure that public confidence in those rules is maintained, that the rules reflect global realities and that we put in place the conditions in which that consensus among member states can be generated in the future," he said.
Retailers and importers claim that European consumers benefit from cheaper trade and extra duties would burden them with additional costs. European companies that outsource labor-intensive manufacturing to Asia _ such as Ecco _ said they would also be unfairly caught by tariffs meant to target Asian shoemakers.
Alisdair Gray of the British Retail Consortium _ whose members include supermarket chains such as Tesco PLC, Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s Asda and J. Sainsbury PLC _ said the agreement was "disappointing" and the result of horse-trading between EU nations rather than a careful consideration of Europe's economic interests.
He said it would penalize retailers at a time of fierce competition and rising costs.
"We don't think this is a particularly constructive attitude," Gray said. "We operate on very low margins of 4-5 percent and all our costs are going up."
Mandelson said trade officials would continue to monitor import prices and would review the tariffs if necessary.
Half of the 2.5 billion pairs of shoes sold in the EU last year came from China. Some 174 million pairs fall into the category that faces the extra charges.
Imports of Chinese leather shoes jumped tenfold between 2001 and 2005, the EU said, while average import prices fell 31 percent over the period.
Vietnam supplies fewer shoes _ 265 million pairs last year _ 103 million of which would face import duties. Leather shoe imports doubled between 2001 and 2005, the EU said. Average import prices for Vietnamese shoes fell 20 percent during the period, while retail prices have remained stable or risen slightly.


Updated : 2021-04-13 10:49 GMT+08:00