EU, China Fight Over Shoe Duties

GENEVA (AP) -- The World Trade Organization launched an investigation Tuesday into European Union charges on Chinese shoes, and took up complaints by South Korea and Vietnam against the United States.

Brussels and Beijing are battling over an EU decision in December to extend trade charges on Chinese leather shoes by 15 months to protect European shoemakers.

China says the antidumping duties are protectionist and damaging to free trade. It has received backing from European importers and retailers who say the charges cost shoppers millions of euros each year.

But the 27-nation EU says the trade charges introduced in 2006 are necessary because European producers are being harmed by Chinese rivals illegally selling shoes below cost.

Countries breaking international trade rules can face WTO-authorized sanctions, usually through higher tariffs on their own exports. But trade cases generally take years to resolve and often avoid such retaliatory measures.

The Korean and Vietnamese cases against the United States deal with how Washington calculates import fees on foreign goods it suspects are being "dumped" on the U.S. market at unreasonably low prices. The U.S. has lost a string of similar cases in recent years.

Seoul's complaint concerns mostly steel products; Vietnam's case deals with shrimp exports.

The WTO will likely issue rulings in the disputes early next year.

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