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European trade and consumer bodies condemn calls to extend duties

The European Footwear Alliance (EFA) and BEUC – the European consumers’ association - have lambasted calls by the Confederation of the Footwear Industry (CEC) for an extension of anti-dumping duties on Asian leather footwear.

The EFA branded the calls made in an open letter published in the Financial Times by CEC president Vito Artoli “misleading” and “factually incorrect”.

The EFA’s response to the letter by the CEC – which can be seen in full here including a response from Drapers’ editor Jessica Brownand the British Retail Consortium’s director Brussels Alisdair Gray – follows below.

It comes ahead of a meeting of the EU anti-dumping committee today. While footwear is not on the agenda for the meeting it is expected to be discussed and Drapers will update on any findings from today’s meeting.

EFA’s response

Claim:  This [European Commission] document sets out the technical reasons why it is proven that the practice of dumping is continuing and is damaging the European industry.

Fact:  The Commission has proved nothing.   On the contrary, in a deeply flawed draft proposal that makes selective and self-serving use of evidence, the Commission still fails to show any injury to European footwear producers.  And its comparisons of costs in China and Brazil are a parody of 21st century economics.

Claim:Other countries are imposing duties so there must be dumping.

Fact:The reference to Canada is factually wrong, since their investigation concluded that the imports of waterproof footwear caused no injury and would not threaten to cause injury to the domestic industry. Brazil and Argentina are two of the most protected economies in the world and currently have provisional duties in place while investigations are underway.  They are not appropriate reference countries for the EU to follow on footwear trade matters.

Claim:The antidumping duties are of no concern to consumers since they only add €1.40 and €0.90 to the cost of a pair of shoes and this cost can be paid by the importers anyway.

Fact:European footwear companies have paid over €800m already in additional duties.  For families hit by the financial crisis, every euro counts. 

Claim:The duties will be good for consumers since without them Asian producers will dominate the market and wipe out competition.

Fact:This is entirely speculative and without any proven foundation or data.  Chinese and Vietnamese imports don’t compete with the luxury leather footwear exported by high-end producers in the EU, and trade barriers are not a driver for future competition.

Claim:The “European” industry is doing just fine, it only needs a level playing field to compete successfully.

Fact: First of all, the companies calling for an extension of the duties by no means represent the entire European footwear industry. EFA represents both producers and importers so CEC cannot claim it speaks on behalf of the whole EU industry. In addition to this, there is no doubt in our minds that the playing field already is level. The EU companies in CEC membership are performing  very well. Much of their success is down to their ability to both plug into global supply chains and capture market share outside of the EU. By their own admission, they are “very much alive and competitive”, “more vibrant then ever”, with “ongoing investments”, with “strong sales” – strange statements indeed from the very people who are also calling for more protectionism

BEUC’s response

Meanwhile, the BEUC has written to the Financial Times in response:

“Yesterday in an advertisement the European Confederation of the Footwear Industry CEC asked to extend the anti-dumping duties on Chinese shoes arguing this would be in the interest of European consumers.

The European consumer organisation BEUC strongly opposes this view. Facing already tough economic times European consumers do not need an extension of the duties, artificially inflating consumer prices, but their removal. A decision to continue antidumping duties on Chinese and Vietnamese shoes is anti-consumer, anti-trade and anti-competition.”

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