20pc duty on Asian shoe in EU

Brussels, February 24:

The EU trade commissioner, Peter Mandelson, announced anti-dumping duties of up to 20 per cent on imports of Chinese and Vietnamese leather shoes but immediately ran into accusations from retailers that this would lift high-street prices.

Mandelson, who is exempting children’s and sports shoes from the proposed duties, dismissed the retailers’ claims as “totally fanciful’’ and challenged them to absorb increased costs of about EUR1.50 within the supply chain.

He denied it was a protectionist move to placate Italian, French and other shoe-producing countrie and urged China and Vietnam to abide by the rules of fair and open trade after finding “compelling’’ evidence of “state-supported dumping’’.

Mandelson, who was embroiled in the “bra wars’’ last summer over cheap Chinese textile imports, is recommending to the EU’s 25 governments that they endorse duties of 19.4 per cent and 16.8 per cent respectively on some Chinese and Vietnamese leather shoes.

The duties, which come after a nine-month investigation, would be phased in over six months from April, starting at four per cent to avoid hitting importers and retailers with a one-off swingeing hike and adding to the costs of goods already in transit.

Peter Bolliger, chief executive of the UK shoemaker and retailer Clarks, said, “Our initial observation is one of disappointment. Whilst noting the exemption for children’s shoes, we know this is not guaranteed and is subject to challenge from sections of the industry, which must be a matter of great concern to all parents.’’

Horst Widmann, president of FESI, the sports goods industry lobby, said, “It is misleading to say that the impact will be limited. Under anti-dumping rules, footwear brands and the retail sector are forced to reflect the cost of duties in sales prices. Consumer prices will rise by up to 20 per cent if anti-dumping duties of such magnitude are imposed.’’

Both FESI and the branded footwear lobby EBFC, representing importers such as Nike, Clarks and Timberland, said a minimum import price would be fairer.