Yesterday, the EU reported that imports of Chinese shoes in six quota-free categories in the first four months of 2005 increased 681 percent over the same period last year, while shoe prices fell 28 percent.
Claude Veron-Reville, European Commission trade spokesperson, said the EU would respond quickly to any application for anti-dumping investigations and take action if charges were proved to be true.
Footwear manufacturers' associations in Italy, Spain and Portugal are reportedly planning to file applications next week, a move supported by companies from France, Greece and Poland. They say imports from China have flooded their markets and hurt their domestic industries.
China Leather Industry Association sources said that this cannot be justified, and the General Administration of Customs denied there had been a significant negative effect on the European market.
"The figures show that China's exports have not had a severe impact, which the European companies have claimed," said Wei Yafei, an association spokesperson. "Such a slight increase will not do harm to local industries."
She referred to association statistics for the first quarter, that overall footwear exports to the EU had amounted to 257 million pairs, up 2.8 percent year-on-year, with a value of US$726 million, up 30.8 percent.
"As the commission is busy with textile frictions with China, it might not launch an investigation toward safeguard measures against Chinese shoes in one or two months," Wei said.
In order to collect information for possible safeguard measures or anti-dumping charges, since February 1 the EU has required importers of shoes from categories previously covered by quotas to apply for permits.
If the EU finds that there has been a great surge of Chinese shoes in its market, it would take measures to protect the domestic businesses.
"That will be a heavy blow to China's shoemaking industry," said Wang Jin, an official with China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Light Industrial Products, Arts and Crafts.
The EU is the second largest market for Chinese shoes, accounting for 14.6 percent of exports. China exported about 800 million pairs of shoes, worth of more than US$2 billion, to the EU last year.
The government and industrial associations have carried out a series of measures to monitor footwear exports and strengthen self-regulation, and they are considering restrictive measures similar to those on textile exports.
As with textiles, the country's shoemakers have been amid tensions of trade conflicts with trade partners since last autumn before all quotas on footwear trade were eliminated at the start of this year.
In addition, Chinese bicycle exporters might face stricter market conditions in Europe after the European Commission made preliminary rulings to impose a 48.5 percent penalty tariff on grounds of dumping.
The final ruling is scheduled to be made on July 15.
China's bicycle makers have been charged with dumping and a 30.6 percent tariff imposed since 2000. The prior ruling will expire in July.
China exported 1.5 million bicycles to the EU last year to become a major supplier, particularly of low and medium end products.
(China Daily June 9, 2005)