China and Vietnam have hit out at the anti-dumping measures proposed by the European Union on imports of leather shoes from the two countries, describing them as "illegal" and without "factual support."

The decision to introduce permanent anti-dumping duties on Chinese and Vietnamese leather shoes from Saturday (7 October) has also enraged the Footwear Association of Importers and Retail Chains (FAIR) which says it is now considering legal measures.

Under the deal agreed on Wednesday (4 October), Chinese and Vietnamese shoes will face tariffs of 16.5% and 10% respectively for the next two years, followed by a reassessment.

The new duties replace temporary tariffs of 19.4% on Chinese-made shoes and 16.8% on shoes from Vietnam.

"We will not accept this decision," said Paul Verrips, president of FAIR, whose members include Columbia (France), Clarks (UK), Deichmann (Germany), Wortmann (Germany), Leder & Schuh (Austria), and Vivarte (France).

"It is directed against the interests of European consumers and will lead to a loss of tens of thousands of jobs within the industry."

Even though the EU says the extra charges could add just EUR1.40 (US$1.79) to the average retail price of Chinese shoes - including children's footwear - Verrips believes the extra costs cannot be absorbed, and will inevitably lead to rising consumer prices.

"Not only this decision, but the entire investigation is characterised by a variety of procedural errors," Verrips added. "Currently we are checking into possibilities for legal action."

A spokesman for China's Ministry of Commerce (MOC), Chong Quan, said the EU's decision contradicts WTO rules and the EU's own anti-dumping laws - and "harms the justifiable rights of Chinese leather shoe enterprises."
He said the Chinese side reserves the right to take action in response and will continue to pay close attention to the issue.

Likewise, Nguyen Gia Thao, president of Vietnam's Leather and Footwear Association (LEFASO), told the Vietnam News Agency there had not been any "violations of international trade rules" to justify the levies.

He added that the measures "will affect the jobs of between 60,000 and 70,000 workers in the industry and some small-scale enterprises will face bankruptcy."

Last year China exported 1.2bn pairs of shoes to EU countries, 145m of which were hit by the provisional anti-dumping measures. For Vietnam the EU import figure was 265m pairs, 80m of which were affected.