The Italian-led European Confederation of the Footwear Industry (CEC) has asked for a review of the duties, which the EU is expected to accept.
Any review could take up to 15 months, during which the duties – 16.5 per cent on footwear from China and 10 per cent from Vietnam – will remain. Although the EU received the CEC request in July, it need not make a decision until early October, leaving UK retailers in limbo, said PricewaterhouseCoopers international trade consultant Emma Ormond.
“Those retailers that have contracts with China and Vietnam will be wondering whether to renew them or not,” she added. “And those who are thinking about purchasing from these countries are reluctant to enter into contracts with them.”
The predicament would affect Christmas and spring/summer buying patterns, she said. In October 2006, the EU imposed extra import duties on leather footwear from China and Vietnam over allegations from EU footwear manufacturers that imports from these countries were damaging their industries.
British Retail Consortium Brussels director Alisdair Gray believes the EU will bow to pressure again. He said: “Everything is ranged against us. There are too many European Commissioners who want them and this is the biggest issue for the Italian government. I don’t think duties will be removed and it is highly likely the review will go on for 15 months. The best we can hope for is that the duties will last for another two years.”
New Look buying director Malcolm Collins said: “It is highly likely the tariffs on Vietnam will increase again. We have been working with our suppliers for some time on this, as we did before, to find new ways of working to minimise the costs.”