Emergency delegation visits Brussels to avert Far-Eastern footwear fiasco
Retailers including Next, New Look and Clarks mounted an emergency mission to Brussels on Wednesday to avert a punitive tax hike that could add as much as£15 to a pair of shoes.

The group, which also included leading shoe suppliers, fears the EU will impose damaging extra duties on shoe imports from China and Vietnam as part of an investigation into leather shoe-dumping - the practice of exporting shoes at a lower price than they are sold in the home market. EU shoe manufactures claim this creates an unfair competitive advantage.

Fearful of a crisis similar to this summer's bra wars, the retailers called on the EU to minimise any duties, which could be as much as 30 per cent of footwear production and importation costs. The total UK footwear market is worth about£5.5 billion a year.

Among the group were Clarks finance tax manager Martin Salisbury and New Look accessories buying director Malcolm Collins.

New Look chief executive Phil Wrigley, whose company controls a near 5 per cent share of the UK women's shoe market, said: 'If there are taxes, it is spurious to think that will push production back into Europe - it is far more likely to shift to Brazil. Any tax would put pressure on margin, and we would have to put efficiencies elsewhere.'

The EU has until April to introduce provisional measures to prevent shoe-dumping, such as an anti-dumping duty.

Emma Ormond, international trade consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers, explained that the duty would be calculated by either dumping margin, the difference between the export price and the value of the product in the exporting country, or injury margin, the difference between the cost of imported goods and EU factory price - whichever is lower.

It is expected that the injury margin would be the lower of the two and the group is pushing for this to be as little as possible.

Retailers are also concerned that the taxes could be imposed with little notice, leaving a grey area as to whether goods in transit would be affected.

An EU spokesman said that the Commission has not yet reached a decision on whether to impose taxes.