James Moore: These tariffs need kicking into touch
Friday 20 November 2009
Outlook Some common sense from the EU – well, its member states, anyway – which have put the boot into tariffs on shoes made in Vietnam and China. The 10 per cent and 16.5 per cent charge on each country (respectively) is damaging to trade with one of the world's most important regions, and sets a bad precedent.
It's also debatable whether the measures – brought in on the grounds of preventing cut-price dumping - did anything to protect shoemakers in Italy, Portugal, Poland and Spain, which were supposedly the beneficiaries. Most of them operate in much more upmarket niches than their Asian competitors, so much so that it's almost as if Gucci were to start demanding tariffs on the handbags imported by Primark.
There's also a dirty little secret that's not often talked about: a number of European luxury manufacturers have found themselves running uphill because they import the basic models from one of the two countries affected and then tart them up a bit to sell on at a much higher price.
Unfortunately, the vote, while encouraging, isn't the end of the matter. It carries the weight of a formal recommendation, but is not legally binding.
Another poll (which will be legally binding) will have to be held before the tariffs can be untied. That leaves plenty of time for arm-twisting and horse-trading with the aim of reversing the decision. It would only take a volte-face from a couple of members who voted to scrap the charges to change the outcome.
That would be a real kick in the teeth for British retailers and consumers who were cushioned against their imposition by favourable currency movements and now find the reverse to be true.
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