Retailers are urging the European Commission to accept that its plans for import taxes on leather shoes from China and Vietnam are dead and buried.

With 15 EU countries declaring their opposition to proposals to extend the life of import taxes on shoes from China and Vietnam, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) called Wednesday on the Commission to recognise that carrying on with its review of the duties is now pointless.

On Saturday, the European Confederation of the Footwear Industry (CEC) threatened to take legal action to ensure the duties are extended. 

“The opinion given by the Anti-dumping Committee on September 17 concerning the Commission’s proposal to initiate an expiry review with regard to anti-dumping measures against footwear with uppers of leather from China and Vietnam is not only completely unfounded but also legally and economically flaw”, says Roeland Smets, Managing Director of CEC.


In a letter published in the Saturday edition of London’s Financial Times, the CEC said imports were still causing harm to Europe’s shoe industry.

“The European industry today still suffers heavily from the continued dumped imports from China and Vietnam on the European market, and has never fully recovered from the prejudice caused by these dumped imports,” the letter read. “Indeed, merely two years of anti-dumping duties did not suffice for the European footwear industry to recover from the prejudice caused on the European market, despite the efforts made by the industry itself. In fact, the dumping of leather footwear on the European market has never stopped, as was proven by CEC in its request filed to the Commission. Even worse, the existing anti-dumping measures were circumvented by imports from Macau, which obliged the Commission to step up.”

 In a surprise move, a large number of EU member states opposed moves to extend footwear tariffs beyond October 2008. Europe currently imposes a tax on Chinese and Vietnamese imports of up to 16.5 per cent, which ultimately pushes up shop prices.

The BRC has waged a campaign of opposition in recent years, saying the duties drive up prices for low income families and wipe out retailers, already modest, margins. The retailers organisation is praising this rejection of protectionism at a time when consumer confidence is at a record low.

“After years of determined BRC opposition we are close to a victory that will benefit both customers and retailers,” said British Retail Consortium Director General Stephen Robertson. “Enough countries have now come out against import taxes to kill them off for good. The Commission must acknowledge its review of the duties future is now pointless and abandon them.

“The 16.5 per cent tax has had a serious impact on low income families and retailers already struggling to absorb a range of costs rising well above inflation.

“Anti-dumping duties are too often about protecting the interests of a few uncompetitive European producers at the expense of consumers and retailers.

“We hope the opposition to these duties on footwear is an indication of a new determination among the majority of EU states to face down protectionism across other products such as homeware and clothing.”

The European Commission has imposed 16.5 per cent import duties on leather shoes from China and 10 per cent duty on those from Vietnam since October 2006.