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EC Moves on China Shoe Tariffs

The European Commission has pushed for new measures against leather shoes from China and Vietnam despite member states' representatives having rejected two previous proposals this summer.

A proposal by trade commissioner Peter Mandelson to levy a 16.5 percent duty on 'leather upper' shoes entering the EU market from China and 10 percent duty on those from Vietnam was adopted by the commission on Wednesday (30 August).

The proposal has now been put forward to the bloc's 25 trade ministers who have one month to decide on the issue before temporary duties expire.

The commission said the plan was an effort to combine the different economic interests while also respecting the evidence from a 15-month long commission investigation showing that Chinese and Vietnamese shoes received unfair subsidies from their governments.

European footwear production has shrunk by 30 percent since 2001, alongside the rise in imports dumped on the EU market below the real cost of production, according to a commission statement.

"Our job is to tackle unfair competition where it exists. We have found this in these two cases and that is why we have taken the measures that we have proposed," commission spokesman Peter Power told journalists in Brussels.

"It is now up to the member states to take their responsibility to decide," Mr Power said, adding that the "case is complex and highly sensitive."

MEMBER STATES COULD END UP IN COURT. When member states next month meet to decide on the proposal, at least 13 of them must back the plan or abstain from voting for it to come into effect when the provisional duties end on 6 October.

Earlier this month, 14 member state representatives in an anti-dumping advisory group rejected a second proposal by Mr Mandelson, proposing the same tariffs as the commission adopted today.

"It has happened in the past that the advisory committee has taken a certain line and that line has been overturned in [the ministerial meeting]," said Mr Power.

EU member states are divided between northern European countries, which at an early stage moved their shoe factories to Asia and are now importing them, and southern European countries that still have an active shoe industry.

The commission warned that member states rejecting Wednesday's proposal "could in theory be challenged in court to legally defend their position."

One EU trade lawyer told the EUobserver that by making the vote legally binding at the ministerial level, the commission is putting pressure on countries that do not have a strong position on the anti-dumping measures and are therefore less likely to vote against the proposal.

"It's a very political case," the trade lawyer said.

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