Mandelson to impose duty on shoes

The EU Commission is expected to impose anti-dumping tariffs of up to 20% on shoes with leather uppers imported from China and Vietnam.

According to reports in the press, Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson will propose imposing the duty before 25 February 2006, in reaction to extensive research carried out by the Commission and covering a 12-month period, mainly in 2005. The investigation resulted in evidence that China and Vietnam are subsidizing their shoe industries, allowing them to sell shoes at prices below production costs, at an average import price of 8.50 euro per pair of shoes. Sources inside the Commission familiar with the research say it leaves the Commission no choice but to impose tariffs. 

During the first 4 months of 2005, after WTO trade restrictions ran out, seven times as many shoes were imported from China as during the same period the year before. The duty would be imposed starting 7 April 2006, and would concern not only Asian shoemakers, but also Europe-based ones, many of whom have outsourced parts of their production to south-east Asia. Handelsblatt says it would take German shoe retail giant Deichmann 2 years to recover from the blow if tariffs were imposed. The tariffs would affect as much as 8% of all shoes sold in the EU. 

The tariffs would have to be agreed by member states, which could happen as soon as the 27 February General Affairs Council. Southern and central-eastern European countries with important domestic shoe productions, such as Spain, Italy and Hungary, are pressing for the duties to be imposed. Commissioner Mandelson is said to be anxious to avoid the type of chaos caused by the 2005 ‘bra wars’, when goods were stuck for months in EU warehouses. Industry itself is split between associations representing local shoemakers who are warning of the “deindustrialisation of Europe” and international ones warning that tariffs would be “a threat to Europe’s consumers, retailers and competitiveness”. 

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