Plans for new EU taxes on imported shoes for at least the next five years were condemned yesterday by the British Retail Consortium as bad for consumers and bad for retailers.
The new duties will be higher and wider ranging than before, pushing up prices, hitting low income families and wiping out retailers' already modest margins, it claimed.
In April the commission added 19 per cent to the cost of leather shoes imported from China and Vietnam. It now says it intends to raise the duty to 23 per cent, extend it until 2011 and remove the, previously agreed, exemption for children's shoes.
Kevin Hawkins, BRT director general, said: "The commission is caving in to the pleadings of uncompetitive European producers who it clearly favours over low income families and retail workers.
"Yet this substantial and damaging new tax will do nothing to create or preserve a single job in European shoe production. Manufacturers here don't make the low cost shoes China and Vietnam produce.
"All duties will do is wipe out any profit margin made on leather shoe sales, forcing retailers to either raise prices or cut costs by axing jobs. There will be no long-term winners from this latest blow to the free trade principles the EU says it supports."
The BRC says that with every child in the UK under 11 needing shoes costing an average of £99 per year, the tax could amount to £23 per child per year.
The average net margin for retailers is just five per cent.
Under the new plan, the EU would impose normal duties on 140 million pairs of leather shoes each year from China and 95 million from Vietnam.
Once those quotas are exhausted, punitive duties of 23 per cent in the case of China and 29.5 per cent for Vietnam would be levied.
The proposed quota levels were equivalent to about 80 per cent of the imports in 2005 of the kinds of shoes affected by the anti-dumping dispute. ..SUPL: