China keen to solve shoe row

Beijing, February 22:

China urged the European Union today to resolve a brewing trade row over cheap shoes through World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, while conceding such issues were bound to flare as bilateral commerce grew.

“We think that the two sides should respect each other and follow the principle of equality and properly handle the issue in accordance with WTO regulations,” foreign ministry spo-kesman Liu Jianchao said. Liu was responding to a Eur-opean Commission announ-cement yesterday that it was poised to take anti-dumping action against Chinese and Vietnamese shoemakers. EU trade chief Peter Mandelson is to propose a course of action to member states this week, his spokesman said, which an EU source said could result in a 20 per cent tariff on imports of Chinese and Vietnamese shoes with leather uppers.

Pointing to a similar row between the two sides last year over textiles that was eventually fixed through negotiations, Liu indicated the disputes were an unavoidable part of trade that could be resolved amicably.

“Last year we had trade negotiations that successfully resolved some issues,” he said, “As Sino-EU relations develop and expand new problems will continue to appear.” According to Chinese statistics, China-EU trade was valued at $217.3 billion in 2005, up by 22.6 per cent over the previous year. Chinese imports rose by five per cent and exports grew by 34 per cent over 2004.

In the latest dispute, Brussels opened the probe into shoes with leather uppers in July last year under pressure from European manufactures worried about a huge jump in Chinese and Vietnamese imports.

Imports of Chinese-made shoes with leather uppers jumped by 320 per cent from April 2004 to March 2005 while imports from Vietnam surged by 700 per cent. European manufacturers said the surge was due to dumping - selling a product for export at less than its normal value in order to grab market share by undercutting competitors unfairly or because of illegal state aid.

If the EU decided to go ahead with anti-dumping measures, they could be applied as soon as April 7 for six months and could afterwards become ‘definitive’ for the next five years, EU officials said. China’s commerce ministry has yet to comment on the EU’s shoe plans.

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