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EU proposes anti-dumping plan for shoes

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The European Commission, torn between the conflicting demands of EU countries, has drawn up new anti-dumping measures for shoes from China and Vietnam after a previous plan was thrown out by member states.

The European Union executive has proposed punitive duties of 10 and 16.5 percent for leather footwear from Vietnam and China respectively, sources familiar with the case told Reuters.

Last week, EU countries rejected a proposal by Brussels for a system involving quotas for shoes entering the bloc at usual tariffs and higher duties for subsequent imports.

Shoe-producing countries led by Italy argued that plan was too soft while traditionally free-trading countries such as the Nordic states insisted there was no need for measures at all. China said it broke World Trade Organisation rules.

"This is the most practical solution," said an official at the Commission, referring to the new proposal which will be debated by anti-dumping experts from EU countries on Thursday.

But representatives of leading footwear companies, many of whom have invested heavily in export manufacturing capacity in Asia, complained they were confused by the quick change in plans.

"There is no business certainty for us if it goes ahead this way. The Commission should make up its mind and show consistency," said Karl Sedlmeyer, Vice President of the Federation of the European Sporting Goods Industry (FESI).

The planned five-year duties are lower than preliminary ones set in April of 16.8 percent for Vietnam and 19.4 for China.

China and Vietnam deny their shoe exports are being dumped.

Together last year they shipped a total of 1.5 billion pairs of all types of shoes to the 25-nation EU, about 15 percent of which were affected by the preliminary duties.

Starting point

The new proposal must be cleared by EU countries by September to come into force in October when the preliminary duties expire. With Brussels shutting down for the holiday month of August, the Commission has little time to get a consensus .

Trade experts said Italy and other shoe-producing countries were likely to press for higher tariffs.

"This looks like just the starting point for further discussion," said Alisdair Gray, a director of the British Retail Consortium which represents the retail sector in Britain.

Gray said the new duties "could have been worse" for retailers.  

But FESI's Sedlmeyer slammed the inclusion of children's footwear in the tariff plan.

Children's shoes were not hit by the preliminary duties but Brussels found adult footwear was being declared as children's footwear to avoid the tariffs, the Commission official said.

Hi-tech sports shoes, known as Special Technology Athletic Footwear, will continue to be exempt for the duties.

Top shoe manufacturers, such as Timberland and Wolverine of the United States, want the Commission to consider only applying duties on shoes below a minimum price.

The shoes row is another example of how the EU is divided the challenges of economic globalisation. Last year, textile producing countries and those with retail interests locked horns on how to cope with surging Chinese clothing imports.

EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson wants to review the bloc's anti-dumping rules, saying they should reflect the needs of retailers and companies which invest in factories in low-cost countries outside the EU, as well as local producers.


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