BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) -- The European Commission said Monday that it had no choice but to keep trade charges on shoes imported from China and Vietnam for at least another seven months.
European Union trade regulators tried but failed to get European governments to agree to drop the extra duties next month, two years after introducing them because Asian shoemakers were illegally selling below-cost and unfairly undercutting European rivals.
EU spokesman Peter Power said the threat of legal action by European shoe companies -- particularly those based in Italy -- meant the European Commission now had no choice but to open an investigation on keeping the duties in place that will last for at least seven months.
"This in real terms means that the current duties will last for the duration of that review," he told reporters.
The EU currently charges an extra 16.5 percent for shoes from China and 10 percent from Vietnam which affect 11 of every 100 pair of shoes sold in Europe, including children's footwear.
The European Commission claims this only adds 1.40 euros ($2.05) to the average retail price of Chinese shoes selling for 35 euros ($51.24) in Europe, if importers and retailers choose to pass the cost on to customers.
The European Confederation of the Footwear Industry CEC and the Italian Footwear Manufacturers' Association ANCI took out a full-page ad in the Financial Times two weeks ago, warning that they would sue the commission if it tried to end the charges.
They claim the antidumping duties are essential to protect their industry which is still suffering heavily from losing market share to cheap Asian imports.
But shops and shoemakers dependent on low-wage manufacturers in China and Vietnam said they hoped the EU investigation would prove that the duties were no longer needed -- a move that could see them reimbursed for duties paid on shoes they import from October.