Mandelson excludes children's shoes from Chinese import tariffs

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The Independent Online

The European Commission will today announce it has decided to exclude children's shoes and sports footwear in a move that will exempt almost 100 million pairs of shoes from the regime of tariffs on Chinese and Vietnamese imports.

Peter Mandelson, the EU trade commissioner, will publish plans this afternoon to impose a four-stage tariff that will see levies on Chinese leather shoes rise from about 5 per cent in April to almost 20 per cent in September.

The commissioner will say he has struck a balance between manufacturers worried about the threat from cheap imports and retailers concerned about an increase in their costs.

Under his plan tariffs will be imposed at 4.8 per cent on Chinese imports and 4.2 per cent on goods from Vietnam from 7 April. The levies will then rise to 9.7 and 8.4 per cent respectively on 2 June, increasing to 14.5 and 12.6 per cent on 17 July and finally to 19.4 and 16.8 per cent on 25 September.

At that stage ministers from the 25 member states would have to vote on whether to maintain the regime for a five-year period.

Sources in Brussels said Mr Mandelson had decided to exclude children's shoes after listening to lobbying from retailers and importers.

"Young children need potentially four or five pairs a year so a decision has been taken not to take action on children's shoes," an EU official said.

The Commission has also decided to exclude special technology footwear that includes sportswear because there was not enough production within the EU to qualify for an anti-dumping tariff. The decisions will cut the number of pairs affected by 60 million a year to 145 million from China and by 39 million to 80 million on Vietnam based on 2005's trade.

The decisions will be mixed news for retailers who had lobbied for a single-digit increase. "We are thrilled about the exclusion of children's shoes as we had lobbied hard on this," said Emma Ormond, an international trade consultant for accountants PwC, which acted as consultants to a group retailers and importers. "But the bottom line is that we still think that anti-dumping duties are inappropriate and unjustified. That said, we believe that a majority of members states are in favour."

Denmark has come out against the move saying it would raise the average price of a paid of shoes by 25 per cent - a figure rejected by the Commission. The UK's Department of Trade said it was in "close contact" with the UK industry.

Mr Mandelson last night called on China to open its markets to more imported goods to help break deadlocked world trade talks.

Speaking after a meeting with the US trade representative, Rob Portman, Mr Mandelson said there still a long way to go to meet the latest April deadline for a draft world trade agreement, which has been mired amid rows over agriculture subsidies in Europe and the US. In turn, the EU is seeking more concessions on trade and services from countries such as Brazil and China.

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