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21st Sep 2020

China and EU set for WTO clash over shoes

  • Several large shoe manufacturers say EU tariffs lead to higher consumer prices inside the bloc (Photo: EUobserver)

EU-China trade tensions were further strained on Thursday (4 February), after China filed a formal complaint with the World Trade Organisation over European shoes tariffs.

The Chinese government said European tariffs "violated various obligations under the WTO and consequently caused damage to the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese exporters."

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Brussels immediately hit back, saying the tariffs had been imposed in response to the "unfair trade practices" pursued by the Asian powerhouse.

"Anti-dumping measures are not about protectionism; they are about fighting unfair trade," said the European Commission's acting trade spokesperson, John Clancy.

"The decision to impose measures was taken on the basis of clear evidence that dumping of Chinese products has taken place and that this is harming the otherwise competitive EU industry," he added.

The quarrel comes on the same day that US President Barack Obama vowed to take a "much tougher" stance on China, in a bid to make sure it opens its markets to US exporters.

Sino-American relations are already frayed following last Friday's announcement that US companies are set to sell $6.4 billion worth of arms to Taiwan.

China joined the WTO in 2001, but waited until July of last year to file its one and only unfair trade case against the EU. Thursday's decision to haul the EU to the international trade body is been seen as a sign of greater trade assertiveness by some analysts.

Controversial tariffs

Europe itself has been divided over the shoe tariff issue, with producer nations such as Italy strongly in favour, while several net exporting states have expressed their opposition to the duties.

On 22 December, EU countries voted to extend anti-dumping duties on Chinese and Vietnamese leather footwear imports for a further 15 months as of January 2010.

In total, 13 member states voted against the commission's proposal to extend the duties, nine voted in favour and five abstained. Under EU anti-dumping rules, abstentions count in favour of a commission proposal.

The European duties add between 9.7 percent and 16.5 percent to the import price of Chinese shoes and 10 percent to Vietnamese shoes.

In an eight-page legal complaint, the Chinese government requested consultations on both the original 2006 decision to impose the shoe duties and last year's move to extend them.

The European Footwear Alliance (EFA), which represents several big manufacturers such as Adidas and Timberland, welcomed China's move.

"The EFA shares China's view that the EU's decision to extend the duties for a further 15 months in December 2009 was based on a very questionable investigation and a flawed analysis of the economic facts," said the group in a statement.

"Ironically, the measure hurts European business and consumers the most," it added.

Court rejects appeals against shoe tariffs

An EU court has backed the bloc's decision to impose tariffs on shoes from China and Vietnam following a series of complaints from Chinese shoe producers.

China urges Germany and France to solve euro-crisis

Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao on Thursday offered vague promises to buy bonds from troubled euro-countries, but said that it is ultimately up to Germany and France to solve the crisis.

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