BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) -- The European Commission said Friday that it would keep trade charges on Chinese and Vietnamese shoes in place until an investigation wraps up by the end of 2009.
Earlier this week, an EU spokesman said regulators had no choice but to keep the antidumping tariffs because it risked a legal challenge from European shoemakers if it dropped them without launching a full inquiry to prove that Asian shoemakers are no longer selling below-cost.
The EU imposed the charges two years ago on complaints from EU producers that they were being unfairly undercut by a flood of cheap imports.
A notice in the EU's Official Journal said regulators will spend up to 15 months on the new probe. The current charges will stay in place until that investigation finishes.
The EU does not recognize that China and Vietnam as market economies because their governments may subsidize business costs such as electricity or rent. Regulators said they will have to compare European costs against manufacturers in Brazil to see if the final selling prices are below-cost.
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 (US$2.05) to the average retail price of Chinese shoes selling for €35 (US$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 three 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.