The European Union (EU) Council of Ministers has refused to reimpose EU anti-dumping duties at 16.5% on five China and Hong Kong-based shoemakers, rejecting a European Commission proposal.

A council communiqué said ministers "rejected a proposal aimed at re-imposing anti-dumping duties on imports of certain footwear with uppers of leather" made in mainland China.

The companies affected were Brosmann Footwear, Seasonable Footwear, Lung Pao Footwear, Risen Footwear and Zhejiang Aokang Shoes.

The decision ends a long legal tit-for-tat battle. The companies had opposed the original duties, which expired in 2011, challenging them at the European Court of Justice (ECJ), which potentially could have sparked a refund.

But the court allowed the European Commission to re-examine whether the duties were legitimate and Brussels this year decided they were and asked ministers to re-impose them.

EU ministers however have now refused re-authorise the duties. The council's communiqué said EU rules did not "oblige the [EU] institutions to re-impose the duties..."