BRUSSELS, Belgium – The EU endorsed plans by its trade chief for import duties on Asian leather shoes. The plan says imports of Chinese and Vietnamese-made leather shoes will be subject to tariffs of 16.5% and 10% respectively. The European Commission is legally obliged to make a proposal and remains confident in the legal merits of the current proposal. The current proposal was rejected by a narrow margin by Member States at advisory level. It will now return to Member States for a legally binding vote. Member States may be asked to explain the legal rationale for their votes.
If there is no simple majority in Council in favour of measures or abstaining, then measures will lapse when the provisional measures expire on October 6. This is a decision for Member States. Those who reject the measures could in theory be challenged in court to legally defend their decision – something they have not been required to do up to this point. This is what happened in the cotton fabrics case back in 1998, when the Council was judged by the European Court of Justice to have not provided legal justification for its rejection of measures. There is some certainty that the tariff proposals are being pushed by Italy, in particular, where the brown shoe products are very expensive compared to imports from China and Vietnam. The most sentiment against the tariffs comes from Northern Europe, where it is feared, prices will escalate to protect older European shoe producers.
Acting to limit the damaging effects of dumping is not protectionism, according to proponents. Dumping is contrary to any understanding of what constitutes fair trade, they maintain. Anti-dumping measures typically consist of an additional duty that offsets either the extent to which the product is being exported below real value or the injury caused to domestic producers, whichever is lower. EU rules ensure that anti-dumping measures cannot be used to make imports more expensive than the equivalent EU product. So while anti-dumping measures seek to eliminate the effects of "unfair trade" they cannot shield European producers from tough, but legitimate competition. Anti-dumping measures do not take the form of quantitative restrictions or import quotas, there is no ban on the goods in question and no limit to their export to Europe.