Footwear industry insiders from China and some European countries are calling for a solution to China's trade disputes with the European Union (EU).
"We hope the EU's anti-dumping suit against China can be solved through negotiations instead of imposing trade barriers," said Massimo Donda, president of the Italian association for footwear retailers.
Just like the textile frictions that were settled through consultations between Beijing and Brussels, he said he believes the two sides should find solutions to ongoing disputes through talks rather than acrimonious litigation or trade restrictions.
He made his remarks on Sunday at the Global Forum of Footwear in Beijing. The EU anti-dumping charges were discussed repeatedly during the two-day forum.
The EU has been embroiled in disputes over footwear imports with a number of countries and regions, including South Korea and Taiwan, for several years.
Its moves are seen as attempts to prevent its domestic shoe manufacturing industry from suffering shrinking sales.
Donda said he attributes the decline of the footwear industry in the EU first to the high labour costs in the economic bloc.
"As the labour costs are increasing in some East European countries, enterprises will certainly transfer their manufacturing centres to places that are more favourable to their enterprises, with lower costs, such as China and other Asian countries," he said.
It is not prudent for the European Commission to start a probe into Chinese safety shoes based on figures from a mere four months, said an Italian shoe maker Luigino Rossi.
"We need statistics from at least six months to tell whether there is harm to the market or not," he said.
The statistics on which the EU probe was based were not accurate, argued Luan Chunsheng, vice-president of the China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Light Industrial Products and Arts-Crafts.
"The figures from 2005 covered the 25 EU countries while part were from 2004 and were based on an estimation for 10 new members," he said.
He added that it was not right for the EU to take the quantity of import permits as the realized shipments.
Fearing a series of anti-dumping charges on more categories of footwear, the Chinese Government and industrial associations have called on enterprises involved to respond.
But this might bring about trade frictions with additional trading partners in case those enterprises forced out of the EU swarm to other markets.
As a matter of fact, more than 10 major labour safety shoe manufacturers in China reached an agreement late last month to respond to the dumping charges together.
The EU, which is the second largest market for Chinese shoes, has launched a dumping investigation against two categories of labour safety shoes originating from China at the end of last month.
It claimed that after the quota system on the shoe trade was eliminated on January 1 this year, its imports of six categories of footwear from China enjoyed a year-on-year rise of 681 percent in the first four months of this year.
(China Daily July 5, 2005)