Chinese shoemakers began legal action against the EU on Dec. 21 over anti-dumping duties imposed on their products, said Steptoe and Johnson, the company representing them. The four companies, including the Aokang Group the biggest private producer in the country, filed their suits at the Court of First Instance, Europe's second-highest court, in Luxembourg. The companies claim that the EU's regulator failed to examine their prices properly before the anti-dumping tariffs were introduced.
In all, 1,200 Chinese companies are affected by the tariffs, with most of the rest opting out due to the high cost of litigation, according to Chinese media.
James Searles, a partner with Steptoe and Johnson in Brussels, expressed confidence that they would win their case as the European Commission had used sampling rather than checking every company before making its decision. The highest EU court, the Court of Justice "has already had one ruling in which it called for individual assessment of each claim," he added. He said their cases differed in some respects but that "one of the most important claims overall is relating to the Commission's decision on how it deals with the market economy treatment claims."
The EU imposed a 16.5% anti-dumping tariff on imports of Chinese shoes with leather uppers beginning October 7. It also placed 10% tariffs on those from Vietnam for two years amid soaring imports.
The step provoked strong opposition from Chinese shoemakers and the Chinese government, which said the measures did not conform with EU and World Trade Organization regulations.
The complaint says that the EU's executive arm erred in comparing Chinese prices to an 'analogue' state, in this case Brazil, rather than recognizing China as a market economy and treating it on its own merits.
A spokesman for European Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson said: "We will defend our decision rigorously." The measures taken were in line with World Trade Organisation procedures, he said, adding that this was not the first time that the Commission had employed the sampling technique.
EU nations voted narrowly to impose the tariffs amid strong lobbying from Italy.
Last year China exported 1.2 billion pairs of shoes to EU countries, 145 million of which were hit by the provisional anti-dumping measures. For Vietnam the EU import figure was 265 million pairs, 80 million of which were affected.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2006