European Union nations voted Tuesday to extend trade charges on Chinese and Vietnamese leather shoes by 15 months to protect European shoemakers — a move likely to anger China and European retailers who say it inflates prices.
China has complained about the antidumping duties, which it says are protectionist and damaging to free trade. European importers and retailers had also called for an end to the charges, saying they cost shoppers millions of euros (dollars.)
EU governments said in a short statement that they had voted by a majority to extend the duties at a meeting Tuesday. They did not say how the 27 member countries had voted.
The European Union introduced the trade charges in October 2006, claiming European producers were being harmed because Chinese and Vietnamese rivals were illegally selling shoes below cost in Europe.
However, shop owners and some shoe brands claimed that they are the real victims because the charges forced them to pay more for the vast number of shoes now made in China.
Alisdair Gray, of the British Retail Consortium, said Tuesday's vote meant that "consumers will have to keep paying inflated footwear prices for a further two years."
He said it was also "a signal to failing companies around Europe" that EU regulators were ready to step in and protect them from foreign competition.
The European Footwear Alliance — which represents Timberland, Ecco, Hush Puppies and Adidas — said earlier this month that the prospect of the charges staying in place until 2011 "will cost European consumers and businesses hundreds of millions of euros" and generate euro1 billion in tariffs.
It said the move would not help Europe's struggling shoemakers because "imports from China and Vietnam have been replaced by imports from other third countries and not a single shoe manufacturing job will return to Europe."
EU officials said they wanted to extend them because "uncompetitive behavior has continued to cause significant harm to EU manufacturers" and ending them would hurt restructuring efforts by shoemakers who employ 260,000 people in Europe.
The charges add between 9.7 percent and 16.5 percent to the import price of Chinese shoes and 10 percent to Vietnamese shoes — costing less than 1.50 euros for shoes that sell for 50 euros, because the average import price is 9 euros. The EU commission said the extra fees haven't hiked consumer prices or damaged distributors' "healthy" profits.
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