China has threatened to take legal action against the European Union (EU) following its decision yesterday (22 December) to extend controversial anti-dumping duties on leather shoes imported from China and Vietnam.

The 15-month extension means Chinese and Vietnamese leather footwear imports will continue to be hit by taxes of 16.5% and 10% respectively, from January 2010 until the end of March 2011.

But a spokesman of the Ministry of Commerce told local media that China "will appeal to the World Trade Organization and take measures to protect the rights and interests of Chinese companies."

Trade groups in Europe have also hit out at the decision, which was made despite a recommendation by European trade officials that they be scrapped.

In particular, there is criticism of the voting procedures, which were skewed by the abstention of a few Member States. Under EU rules, abstentions count as votes in favour, and boost results for the minority of EU Member States who explicitly voted in favour of the extension.

"The whole procedure should be based on careful investigations and objective findings," points out Betty van Arenthals, AEDT president.

"However, too often, decisions on anti-dumping cases are just the result of bargaining and political negotiations among Member States driven by their specific national interests."

Like many other observers, AEDT believes the Commission failed to demonstrate that dumping is occurring, and warns the decision "will negatively affect the trade relations of the EU with China and Vietnam."