Retailers and trade groups from across Europe are warning that rising shipping costs may lead to a hike in the price of imported shoes from China and Vietnam - and are urging the European Commission to abandon plans to extend anti-dumping duties that could hurt stores and consumers even further.

Their concern comes as EC trade chief Peter Mandelson visits China (5-8 June) to discuss plans to extend a 20% import duty, currently on leather shoes imported from China and Vietnam, for a further five years and whether to impose the duty on children's shoes for the first time.
 
But any decision will coincide with a surge in shipping rates imposed by the Far East Freight Conference in response to rising oil costs - adding around 30% to the cost of transporting a shipload of shoes from the Far East.
 
The newly formed Children's Shoe Coalition (which includes shoe retailers, The British Retail Consortium, Independent Footwear Retailers Association and members from Ireland, France, Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands) says an extension of import duties would launch a "further assault" on consumer prices and retail margins.

Kevin Hawkins, director general of the British Retail Consortium, said: "With all their costs going the wrong way customers are at risk of price rises and many retailers are being seriously squeezed. 
 
"Rising oil prices are adding to production costs in Asia and forcing up transport bills. At home retailers are coping with rents, rates, wages and energy bills all rising well above inflation at a time when demand on the high street is distinctly cool."
 
On top of a 30% hike in shipping charges "the last thing they need is a new 20% import duty. It is more important than ever that governments who support free trade face down this treat."