The EU member states have backed the deal with China on textile quotas, but shoes may soon put the Commission on the back foot.
The deal reached between the Commission and China, which was approved by member states on 7 September, covers the period 2006-07. Some member states wanted it to go on until the end of 2008, when the WTO safeguards in the China protocol expire. It was a textile-specific clause in China’s WTO accession that gave the EU the right to introduce safeguard measures up until 2008.
However, the same clause as for textiles does not apply to shoes, which is looming as another crisis in EU-China relations. The EU could in theory introduce quotas on shoes based on a general WTO safeguard provision, but the fear is that this could damage long-term EU-China relations by effectively inviting tit-for-tat actions.
Italy is understood to be concerned about dumping shoes on EU markets and the Commission has already launched anti-dumping procedures in a number of areas, particularly against China, India and Russia. But anti-dumping is a separate issue, relating to unfair trading practices, and therefore not covered by the type of agreement the EU and China has reached.
Katinka Barysch, a policy analyst from the Centre for European Reform, told EURACTIV: “China is the biggest target of EU anti-dumping action. If there were any action on shoes, it would be taken on the basis of anti-dumping rules if it could be shown that China was sending goods to Europe at markedly lower prices than were being sold in Asia.”
However, she added that “the Commission does not want to be seen to be acting in response to the shoe manufacturing lobby as it would send a message to other lobbies to come and do likewise.”