BRUSSELS (AP) -- The EU's executive commission proposed Wednesday extending trade charges on Chinese and Vietnamese leather shoes that importers said would cost consumers millions of euros (dollars) and hurt relations with China.
EU nations will vote later this month on whether they will extend the antidumping tariffs by another 15 months.
The European Union imposed charges in 2006, claiming European producers were being harmed because Chinese and Vietnamese rivals were illegally selling shoes below cost in Europe.
However, retailers and importers claimed that they were the real victims because the charges forced them to pay more for the vast number of shoes now made in China.
The European Footwear Alliance -- which represents Timberland, Ecco, Hush Puppies and Adidas -- said the prospect of the charges staying in place until 2011 "will cost European consumers and businesses hundreds of millions of euros" and generate €1 billion in tariffs.
It said the move would not help Europe's struggling shoemakers because "imports from China and Vietnam have been replaced by imports from other third countries and not a single shoe manufacturing job will return to Europe."
The group said the charges would also "jeopardize the EU's good relations with key emerging markets" and that China was considering challenging the tariffs at the World Trade Organization.
EU officials said they wanted to extend them because "uncompetitive behavior has continued to cause significant harm to EU manufacturers" and ending them would hurt restructuring efforts by shoemakers who employ 260,000 people in Europe.
The charges add 16.5 percent to the import price of Chinese shoes and 10 percent to Vietnamese shoes -- costing less than €1.50 for shoes that sell for €50, because the average import price is €9. The EU commission said the extra fees haven't hiked consumer prices or damaged distributors' "healthy" profits.