The overdue report by the Trade Directorate of the EU on anti-dumping duties has now been published, and was quickly condemned by many interested parties. “Flawed, over-selective and one-eyed in its use of data,” are just a few of the comments levied against it.
With a final decision due to be made in mid/late November, this leaves little time for representations to be made before member states vote. Whatever the merits of the review, it’s worth considering two fundamental questions: who benefits from anti-dumping duties, and what is dumping?
There is no benefit to the consumer as, by definition, anti-dumping duties attempt to reduce imports of low-cost footwear. Similarly, retailers and wholesalers are financially penalised. The aim of assisting local manufacturing can only apply to a small number of producers in southern Europe – the UK’s local manufacturing concentrates on high-grade product and is unaffected by Far Eastern imports.
So what is dumping? The term implies collaborative effort by Chinese and Vietnamese producers to target the EU in exporting vast quantities of product at
artificially low prices. The reality is somewhat different. European (and US) sellers of footwear have gone to these countries to develop attractive, competitively priced product.
Questions also need to be asked about what is happening to the vast sums already collected in duty on these imports, what benefits there are to the footwear industry, and how governments weigh up the balance between preserving relatively few jobs in the industry (about 250,000 across Europe) against the impact of higher retail prices for the end consumer.
- Richard Kottler is chief executive of the British Footwear Association