Blog: Leonie BarrieTrade takes a turn

Leonie Barrie | 22 September 2008

Trade stories dominated the news last week, with the heat turning up on long-running issues such as whether or not the European Commission will extend anti-dumping duties on leather footwear imported from China and Vietnam, and what will happen when safeguards on shipments of Chinese apparel to the US expire at the end of this year.

In what turned out to be a surprise move on the footwear front, 15 of the 27 European Union countries voted against an extension of anti-dumping duties. This is not necessarily the end of the matter, since the majority vote by the member states is not binding. Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson can still decide to launch a formal 'expiry review' – which would mean the import taxes remain in place.

But retailers are now urging the EC to accept that any plans for import taxes on shoes from the two Asian countries are dead and buried. Uncertainties over the duties are also making it difficult for retailers and importers to plan ahead and source footwear from China and Vietnam.

Over in the US, meanwhile, trade groups from 17 countries came out to call for a system to monitor textile and apparel imports from China once safeguards on its shipments to the US expire at the end of this year.

The groups want to replicate the Textile Monitoring Program (TMP) currently in place on textile and clothing imports from Vietnam. Under this, the US government reviews import data on a monthly basis in selected categories and, if evidence is found that they are being sold at an unfairly low price, will self-initiate a dumping investigation. 

With trade between China and the EU and US under such scrutiny, just-style asks whether China is, in fact, keen to propagate an aura of gloom. Stories abound of its rising inflation, factories going out of business, and worker shortages – all of which help undermine the protectionist debate – yet its share of world clothing production continues to grow.

There are also conflicting viewpoints from Chinese garment makers themselves. Some say business is slackening as European demand slows, while others are seeing continued strong demand from Europe, despite the economic downturn and strong Chinese currency.


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