Clock ticking on Asian-shoes decision

Member states have once more failed to resolve a row over whether to impose punitive tariffs on imports of Chinese and Vietnamese footwear.

EU countries’ permanent representatives, meeting on 27 September 2006, postponed a decision on a Commission proposal to impose duties of respectively 10 and 16.5% on leather-shoe imports from Vietnam and China. 

The decision will now be delayed until 5 October – just two days before current provisional duties, introduced earlier this year (see EURACTIV 24 March 2006) expire. 

So far, no agreement has been possible between free marketeers such as Britain, Germany and Sweden – which say that the proposals are protectionist and would raise prices for consumers – and shoe manufacturing countries led by Italy – who say imports of under-priced Asian shoes are putting their industries at risk and threatening thousands of jobs (see EURACTIV 29 August 2006). 

According to the Financial Times, the UK had proposed a deal to Italy, in which London would back the imposition of punitive tariffs in return for Rome’s support for the UK bid to retain an opt-out from EU’s working-time directive. 

It seems, however, that the offer was unsuccessful, as was a compromise suggested by France (similar to that suggested by Austria earlier in September) which would have seen the suggested measures applied for just two years rather than five. 

If the EU can’t agree on new duties before 7 October, it will have to go back to charging its normal 7.5% duty on the shoes, to the satisfaction of shoe retailers and importers. 

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