The European Commission has made a direct appeal to the Member States Council to extend anti-dumping duties on imported leather footwear from China and Vietnam despite a majority of member states voting against the proposal.
The Commission has submitted a document to the Member States Council – which will make the final decision on the proposal on December 22 – angering footwear retailers, suppliers and trade associations.
The decision followed a vote by EU member states on November 19 against the extension to the tariffs of 16.5% on leather footwear from China and 10% on Vietnamese footwear.
15 EU member states voted against the proposed extension, 10 voted in favour and two abstained.
Germany, which voted against the extension, is understood to have wavered on the grounds that the extension could be extended beyond the 15-month proposal.
“This points not only to an utter disregard both for the opinion of EU member states and for the interests of European consumers and businesses, but also to a new level of cynicism”
Statement from the European Footwear Alliance
Trade associations the British Retail Consortium and the European Footwear Alliance branded the move by the Commission as a thinly veiled attempt to get member states to change their vote ahead of the final decision on December 22. They said that the move would placate states concerned about the length of the extension but that if voted in it would be easy to extend the tariffs beyond the 15-month period proposed.
BRC director Alisdair Gray labelled the move a “farce”.
He said: “It’s desperation from the Commission. They are trying to twist people’s arms to the bitter end when member states have already made their position clear. We urge them not to change their position and we are expecting people to hold their ground.”
Gray added that the BRC would contact wavering member states Germany, Luxembourg and Malta and urge them not to change their position.
The document will now be put to vote at the Commercial Questions Group on Wednesday – a council which is one level higher than the EU anti-dumping committee.
The European Footwear Alliance said it is “astonished” by the move and said it “condemns” the decision. It added that it would explore all possible options including court action to put a stop to the duties.
In a statement it said: “This points not only to an utter disregard both for the opinion of EU member states and for the interests of European consumers and businesses, but also to a new level of cynicism.
“The duties can be further extended because the amended language aimed at limiting their duration to 15 months is not legally binding. The Commission knows full well that it is making a political promise for which it can give no legal guarantees. The complainants will always have the legal right to request further reviews which will inevitably result in the automatic extension of the anti-dumping duties.”