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Document selected : O-0005/2006

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O-0005/2006 (B6-0007/2006)

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PV 14/03/2006 - 15
CRE 14/03/2006 - 15

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Verbatim report of proceedings
Tuesday, 14 March 2006 - Strasbourg OJ edition

15. State of the European footwear sector one year after liberalisation (debate)

  President. The next item is the oral question by Enrique Barón Crespo, on behalf of the Committee on International Trade, to the Commission, on the state of the European footwear sector one year after liberalisation (O-0005/2006 B6-0007/2006).


  Enrique Barón Crespo (PSE), author. – (ES) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, the footwear industry is an important economic sector in the European Community, known throughout the world for the excellence of its products.

This sector is largely made up of small and medium-sized businesses, located in many cases in regions where they are the main source of employment. In 2005 there were more than 11 000 companies, employing more than 500 000 workers directly or indirectly and producing around 700 million shoes, representing 10% of world production. I should also point out that, in response to the opening-up process, the footwear industry has been extensively restructured and now concentrates its production on the higher price range in particular. I would say that Europe’s most obvious speciality is the leather industry.

Just as in the case of textiles, the impact of the liberalisation process has been important in terms of putting an end to the quota system. The monitoring system introduced by the Commission clearly demonstrates that imports, from China in particular – but not just from China – have seen a spectacular increase. Last year, the average increase in imports in terms of value and quantity exceeded 450% and, in some cases, it was as high as 900%.

The average price of imported footwear has fallen significantly, but the retail price of products has not. This does not support the thesis – a thesis that we all believe should be defended – that the true beneficiaries of the process of trade liberalisation should be the consumers.

A year ago, the European Confederation of the Footwear Industry presented a complaint about dumping practices in the leather footwear sector. This is one of the biggest cases to have arisen in the European Union, and it affects many industries to the tune of more than EUR 800 million.

On 23 February, Commissioner Mandelson announced to the media that the Commission was going to recommend an increase in tariffs of 19.4% for China and 16.8% for Vietnam. Children’s and other footwear, which represent a very significant proportion, were not subject to this kind of measure. The fact is that the Commission adopted an unprecedented decision, introducing provisional tariffs for a period of five months by way of an antidumping measure. It should be pointed out that, given the unit value of the products, this measure cannot be seen as extreme. It is a relatively small percentage.

I am not going to say anything more about dumping. In my capacity as Chairman of the Committee on International Trade, however, I would like to make a few comments on the basis of an initial premise, and that is the need to respect the rules that we have laid down within the framework of the WTO, both inside and outside the Community. I am aware that this is rather more than a simple case of dumping. In some cases, we are talking about the survival of the sector in Europe and also about the possibility of relocation as an appropriate response to developments. As you know, everybody has their arguments in these cases; however, it is inconceivable that the entire European industry should move out.

At the same time, it should be pointed out that China is trying to achieve market economy status within the WTO. Certain aspects of the Community’s investigations indicate that, in this case, China has clearly not complied with WTO obligations, either in the field of subsidies, whether hidden or not, or in the field of counterfeits. This is therefore an opportunity, Commissioner, to demonstrate to the citizens that the Commission is going to do everything in its power to ensure that the trade rules are respected, including, if necessary, having recourse to the WTO’s dispute settlement body.

These distortions of the market are not restricted to the footwear sector. There are well-founded suspicions that certain forms of illegal support for Chinese exporting companies are offered regularly. Commissioner, in view of the expectations of the industry in question and the sensitivity of European public opinion, I would like to know what actions the Commission will take to ensure that that country respects WTO rules. Political considerations must not take precedence over technical conclusions where antidumping is concerned. The measures that you have proposed are controversial. The European industry and certain Member States are not satisfied with your proposal. Public objections have been expressed to the 'creativity' demonstrated by the Commission in its application of the well-established rules and practices in the field of antidumping. I do not know whether these allegations are true. What I do know is that antidumping investigations are based on laws that must be applied fully without any kind of parallel consideration.

In conclusion, I can tell you, Commissioner, that the European Parliament’s Committee on International Trade is going to follow the whole of this process very closely, because we believe that the step taken by the Commission is a first step and that it must be accompanied by an attitude in favour of China and other countries, such as Vietnam, having greater opportunities within international trade while jointly respecting the rules we have laid down.


  Peter Mandelson, Member of the Commission. Mr President, in response to the very welcome questions, let me stress that I am strongly committed to developing the two-way trade and investment relationship between Europe and China and with other Asian markets, including Vietnam. There is no greater prize, in my view, for European trade policy in the coming years than the prize of getting those relationships right.

I believe that Europe must respect and adjust to the natural advantages those economies have, shifting our own focus to sectors and to products where our own skills and technologies give us the edge. That is how trade grows and that is how Europe’s economies have grown over centuries.

The European footwear industry is in the front line of global competition. For all their ingenuity, creativity and excellence, Europe’s leather-shoe makers are faced with an extraordinary challenge from Asia’s producers. However, the case of dumping requires me to distinguish between this tough new competition, on the one hand, and genuinely unfair trade on the other.

Europe’s trade defence measures target unfair trade. They cannot protect us from tough competition. They cannot shield us from Asia’s natural and legitimate low-cost advantages. However, when those comparative advantages are topped up by unfair and uncompetitive practice, we have a right and an obligation to act. That is why, having been presented with a preliminary analysis and assessment by my services, I have recommended to the Commission and to Member States provisional duties in this case.

There is clear evidence of serious state intervention in the leather footwear sector in China and Vietnam: cheap finance, tax breaks, non-market land rents and improper asset valuation leading to dumping. That dumping is causing serious injury to EU producers.

The dumping duties that I am recommending will ensure that retailers with goods in transit are not suddenly faced with unexpected costs at the border. I am suggesting that they be phased in over a period of five months, beginning at about 4% in April. It means that importers can plan ahead over the next six months with a maximum of transparency and predictability. It nevertheless means that after six months the full duty will be in place and the damaging effects of dumping will be counteracted.

As I am required by law to do, I have pondered the question of consumer and retailer interest in this case very seriously. I have proposed to exclude high-tech sports shoes which are no longer produced in significant numbers in Europe. I also propose to exclude children’s shoes so as to be sure that even small price rises are not passed on to poorer families.

I know that some are worried about the possible impact on consumer prices. I believe, on the basis of the facts, that there is a margin within the supply chain to absorb a small duty on import costs by spreading it across product ranges and the distribution chain. As I have said, these are proposals for provisional measures. They will be discussed with Member States and must be confirmed by the College of Commissioners.

I believe that I am proposing a balanced solution that deserves the backing of Member States and this House. It corrects the injury but allows maximum predictability for importers and passes on minimal additional costs to consumers. There will be no quotas, no limit at all on imports of leather shoes from China and Vietnam. I have told the Chinese and Vietnamese Governments that I want to work with them to see how they can address the concerns raised by the EU investigation.

Imposing a duty on dumped goods is not protectionism. It is not a question of asking consumers to subsidise uncompetitive European producers, because the easy comparison is too often made. It is also worth being clear that shoes are not the next textiles. The textile issue concerned fairly-traded textile imports. Our proposed anti-dumping measures on leather shoes tackle, in contrast, unfair competition. The Commission has a legal obligation to investigate such a claim and a legal right to protect European producers against such practice.

Some of your questions address the overall situation in the European footwear sector. Let me address this briefly. The contraction of the footwear sector is a long-term process that began long before trade in footwear with China was liberalised in 2005. Nonetheless, it is clear that there have been winners and losers from this change. Some producers have increased their exports and others, including Turkey and some of the ACP countries, have seen their exports to the EU and elsewhere hold steady or fall.

Clearly, it is China, equipped with a staggering production and export capacity, that has benefited most. Here in Europe, more than 40 000 footwear jobs have been lost and more than 1 000 footwear companies have closed down since 2001. European production of leather shoes has fallen by 30% and profit margins have been heavily squeezed to just over 1%.

However, we should not pretend that this intense competitive pressure on European footwear producers is related solely to dumped goods. In large part, these are the consequences of changing production and consumption patterns in the global economy. I believe we should accept this, while helping those affected to adjust to these changes. We should also acknowledge that European producers have significantly contributed to the change by relocating their production to Asia in quite a number of cases. As a result, we need to take into account a range of European producer interests in assessing our interests in this matter.

Rising to the Asian challenge places great demands on our businesses and workers. The Commission’s growth and job strategy is built on the idea that Europe must commit itself to equipping today’s Europeans to respond to this challenge and to create tomorrow’s jobs. We cannot block globalisation and economic change. I do not believe it is in Europe’s interests to try. Those who think that the Trade Commissioner can reverse global economic change are asking King Canute to hold back the tide.

However, we can shape globalisation, even harness its dynamic potential for renewal and, indeed, for innovation in Europe. I believe that the broader footwear issue confronts us with that imperative. We must invest in change, invest in those affected by change, but face up to the changing world in doing so. We must also be robust in our defence of the rules and of fair competition. We need to recognise that if we want to win the wider political argument for free trade, we must be ready to defend and stand up for fair trade.

However, we cannot deny Asia its comparative advantages or the competitive industry that is lifting hundreds of millions in the developing world out of poverty. The only sustainable balance to that competition is the creativity, innovation and commitment of European companies themselves, reinforced with the appropriate help from political authorities.

I am happy to return to any of these points in detail and to answer points that any Member may subsequently raise.


  Robert Sturdy, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. Mr President, I am a little bit worried that we, and the Commission in particular, have not learned anything from the problem of the ‘bra wars’, as they became known, when we had to readjust our position. I fully understand the situation on anti-dumping measures and agree entirely with the Commission’s outlook on it. However, Commissioner, you said one or two things in your speech which concern me.

You said that, when you looked at Vietnam and China, there were circumstances where they had financing, special financial agreements and tax breaks etc. Does that never apply in some cases in the European Union? Are there not cases where this quite often happens in the European Union? In particular, have European funding, structural funds, etc. never been used? Would there be a risk of us perhaps being taken to the WTO on the extent of anti-dumping measures or support?

Could you also answer one or two other questions? I understand the situation with China very clearly and I would accept your position, but one of the things that we are trying to do in the Western world at the moment is make poverty history. This is something that we have been talking about quite a lot. However, Vietnam, 30 years ago and even 10 years ago, was a very poor country, probably poorer than many sub-Saharan African countries. Why have they had the need? Surely they have been able to compete without actually putting in a support mechanism? Could you answer that? This is a country which has dragged itself from being one of the poorest and now at least has some sort of infrastructure.

I am concerned that we are going to be protective of the European shoe industry. You say not. However, I still feel concerned.

I should like you to answer one final question. I think we as MEPs and you as the Commission have missed an opportunity to get the message across about dumping. People see us as being protectionist. Your staff told me that a pair of designer boots from China cost about EUR 180 in Europe and yet only EUR 10 coming from China. If the effect of the 19% is passed directly on to the consumer, will the 19% be calculated on the EUR 180 or on the EUR 10 that it costs to bring them in?


  Erika Mann, on behalf of the PSE Group. Mr President, I have a few questions and I will not be able to speak on behalf of my group in this case because, as with the anti-dumping cases, I think we are pretty much divided and have our own views on this issue. Nevertheless, I want to thank the Commissioner for presenting his point of view and for intervening.

My starting point is that the anti-dumping measures and instruments need to be taken quite seriously. On that point, I support my colleague Mr Sturdy, who is right. If we do not use the instrument in a transparent and fair way it could become quite complicated for us.

My first question to the Commissioner is: will the EU produce an overall assessment of the conditions of competition and state intervention in the People’s Republic of China? The European Parliament would also like to receive a report on China’s compliance with WTO rules and accession commitment five years after its accession to the WTO.

Would the EC take WTO action if China and Vietnam do not stop their unfair actions within a reasonable period of time and what would these measures be?

Commissioner, do you agree that the EC agreement and the results of the AD investigations are confidential and that leaks of information may lead to market distortions? Could you explain in detail the rationale behind the exclusion of children’s footwear, especially in view of the fact that in some countries children’s footwear is worn by adults? Could you explain why the publication of the results of the anti-surveillance system were so delayed? If I am not completely mistaken, it was one year. One small point: how do you see this investigation relating to another evaluation which is currently being undertaken as regards giving China market economy status?


  Johan Van Hecke, on behalf of the ALDE Group. (NL) Mr President, Commissioner, recent figures from your offices, of which you seem to have been aware for a long time, have taught us that since the liberalisation of European imports last year, the monthly shoe imports from China have risen by 400%, and in some cases, by no less than 900%. You have not announced any dumping levies until now. Some may say that this is too little too late. They believe that you could have prevented things from getting worse by being more alert and responding more rapidly.

The European shoe industry is a relatively small sector, restricted to some four European countries, and already delocalised to a great extent as it is. The question that arises is whether this is a good enough reason to let the whole sector go down the drain, certainly if it has to come up against – and you termed this very aptly yourself – unfair trade practices, such as dumping, or direct and indirect state aid.

Today, the free market is a socially adjusted one in which rules that apply at global level must be observed by all the players. This is clearly not the case here. China is keen to enjoy the benefits of WTO membership but overlooks the obligations that this entails. It is obvious that the whole of the world market is at risk of being thrown out of joint. Textiles yesterday, shoes today, what will it be tomorrow?

I would like to ask the Commissioner why the Commission did not react any sooner. Can it really be that it is scared of rubbing the big yellow giant up the wrong way? Most of all, can the Commissioner explain to us how we can convince the workers in the European shoe industry, who are at risk of losing their jobs as a result of unfair competition, of the benefits to be derived from globalisation of this kind?


  Caroline Lucas, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – Mr President, there is a certain sense of déjà vu in this debate. Although anti-dumping is indeed different from the example of the multi-fibre arrangement, I believe it is no coincidence that this crisis follows the end of quotas. It is clear that in a world of completely deregulated and unfettered free trade the so-called ‘China price’ will drag costs and standards down right across the globe, with the harshest impact on the poorest. I believe we will see more cases of this kind until we recognise that the way forward is through a system of quotas that enables everyone to benefit from trade, rather than just a few.

Mr Mandelson talks about Europe being able to adapt by moving up the value-added chain, but we have had this discussion many times. He knows my view that essentially China is going to do exactly the same, and why wouldn’t it? That is not going to provide a solution for Europe and it is not going to provide a solution for the rest of the world either.

What is interesting about this case is the extraordinary lengths that the Commission appears to have gone to in order to give the impression that this is a much less serious case than it is. It almost feels as if the neo-liberal dogma and ideology are getting the better of the facts on the ground.

There are, therefore, some key questions to be answered, including the level of duties, based on injury, that the Commissioner has found: 19.4% for China and 16.8% for Vietnam. Those are apparently based on adjustments never used in the European Community before. There is real concern in the industry that they will not be enough. The exemption of children’s and sports shoes has the effect of excluding around 42% of footwear imported at dumping prices, yet for which dumping duties will not be paid. I do not believe that is fair to European producers; but it is not fair to Chinese workers either, who are working for pitiful wages – around USD 12 per week, as mentioned in reports of China Labor Watch – while at the same time social rights are reduced to an absolute minimum. Unless we suppose that the consumer is benefiting, I believe it is worth noting that the anti-dumping duties are not likely to lead to increased consumer prices, but to decrease the profit margins of the importers.

I believe that we need to be genuinely concerned about the impact of competition from companies based in China – not just on Europe, but on poorer countries such as the EuroMed countries – and recognise that until we have a system of managed trade, the winners will always be concentrated in a handful of ever fewer countries and the losers will prove to be the majority.


  Vittorio Agnoletto, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, for ten years the European Union and the United States have been leading negotiations on China’s entry into the WTO. Now Beijing has learned the lesson and is not hesitating to apply the rules of the World Trade Organisation with a merciless resolution worthy of its masters.

It appears that the anti-dumping measures in no way comply with Community legislation or case-law and may have an extremely negative impact on the whole system of EU trade policy and consumers: we should therefore conduct a wholesale rethink of the WTO’s laissez-faire doctrines.

We believe that it is important for the European Union to retain an economic model that places at its centre respect for social clauses and the rights of workers in all parts of the world.

Europe ought to be more active in the various international bodies to promote work with dignity. Europe ought to bring in regulations designed to promote labels for ascertaining geographical provenance and compliance with social and environmental rules.

If we do not call into question the WTO’s laissez-faire policies, then after textiles and shoes will come a long list of other products.


  Nigel Farage, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. – Mr President, I should like to express my sympathy to Commissioner Mandelson. Commissioner, you have got an impossible job. How can 25 countries have one single trade policy? One size does not fit all, whether it is trade policy or shoe sizes.

You have also got the problem that you yourself are a free trader, a globalist, a moderniser. You recognise what is going on in the world, but you are battling against the revived economic nationalism that exists within this European Union. You simply cannot do your job and you are overseeing a regime that is laced with protectionism and sheer hypocrisy as we, of course, subsidise our own agriculture and will keep export subsidies in place until 2013.

But, in line with what John Blundell, the Director-General of the IEA, said just the other day: do you recognise that the overwhelming majority of British businesses now want British withdrawal from the common commercial policy and for us to get back to running our own trade policy? Do you recognise that?


  Cristiana Muscardini, on behalf of the UEN Group. (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the liberalisation of the footwear market since 1 January 2005 has led to an increase in imports from China equal to 500 per cent in one year, giving rise to a further contraction in the EU footwear sector, more bankruptcies and higher unemployment.

Import prices are artificially low; there cannot be any fair competition when the starting points are so wide apart and there is no equity when dumping is the rule. The consequences of this situation have also affected suppliers of footwear and of parts from non-EU countries, including applicant countries and developing countries that have been driven out of the Community market.

Following complaints by the European industry against China and Vietnam the Commission has opened an anti-dumping enquiry, which is the largest of its kind ever launched by the EU.

Good intentions are not, however, enough for Parliament; we call for information on specific points. What impact has the disappearance of the quota system had on the EU industry and on developing countries? How does the Commission intend to tackle the need to restructure the European footwear sector? What assessments can the Commission provide on the results of the EU monitoring system in the sector? How are the anti-dumping enquiries proceeding and what are the prospects for the protection of EU interests? Does the Commission intend to launch further initiatives internationally, as was the case for textiles, or is it expected to be too late? Has the Commission considered the need to launch an enquiry regarding China within the framework of the transitional product-specific safeguard mechanism?

The level of protection laid down in the proposal is too low, and is inadequate, especially if it is spread over six months, during the course of which the Chinese will not wait for the duty to reach 20% to export huge quantities of shoes. This, Mr President and Mr Mandelson, is not what the free market is.


  Ryszard Czarnecki (NI). – (PL) Mr President, it is abundantly obvious that Europe needs to protect itself. The scale of the threat before us can be readily understood if we consider that the import of footwear from China has risen by several hundred per cent. The situation is far worse with regard to Vietnam as the latter is an even more dynamic country. Clearly, we need to resort to certain instruments that are only apparently contrary to the spirit of the free market. I say only apparently, because in continents such as Asia production in the sector we are discussing has nothing in common with the free market, as the local labour force is cheap in the extreme. It stands to reason that the European Union is entitled to defend itself and to resort to standard economic procedures and instruments.

I would, however, appeal for consistency. A study of the broader situation reveals that unemployment in this sector has affected a couple of states in the European Union in particular. It also reveals that those same states are refusing to recognise the free market within the European Union. In my view, this demonstrates a certain lack of consistency and I appeal to the governments of the Member States in question to remedy the situation.


  Tokia Saïfi (PPE-DE). – (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, you have supplied us with the figures: today, footwear production in Europe has decreased by around 30%, import prices have fallen by more than 20% and, above all, the sector has lost nearly 40 000 jobs. Six months have passed since the textile industry affair and, just as we had predicted at the time, the Community market once again finds itself faced with unfair commercial practices. In fact, we have – as you pointed out – evidence of state intervention and of the granting of backdoor subsidies to manufacturers from China and Vietnam. Faced with the evidence of such a violation of commercial practices, the European Union has a duty to react and to repair the damage caused to the Community industry, and this in accordance with WTO rules.

That is why it is necessary – as you have demonstrated, Commissioner – to implement antidumping measures in relation to these imports. To establish a law for products that are subject to dumping does not amount to asking the consumer to subsidise uncompetitive European businesses. Rather, it is a question, in fact, of guaranteeing the conditions for balanced trade, which protects the interests of both consumers and manufacturers. Thus, to intervene with the aim of limiting the harmful effects of dumping should not be regarded as protectionism.

The European Union aspires to harmonious and open relations with its Asian partners in order also to free these populations from poverty. However, it also aspires to enforce fair and equitable trade rules for all.


  Francisco Assis (PSE). – (PT) A year after the latest restrictions on footwear imports from China were lifted, we are in a good position to make an objective assessment of the impact of trade liberalisation in this sector. There has been a sharp rise in imports, with the consequences that that entails for European manufacturing sector.

This new situation makes it all the more necessary to monitor the ongoing restructuring process in the footwear sector, whereby the business world must be encouraged to adapt, and the economic structure of the regions most directly affected by the social impact of the ongoing changes must be rearranged. At the same time, however, the Commission must commit itself to detecting and combating glaring examples of unfair competition, which is exacerbating an already problematic situation. Unfair competition is the biggest ally of protectionist impulses. The EU must take a particularly strong lead in this area.

In this context, we should welcome the Commission’s decision to adopt anti-dumping measures, after it emerged that China and Vietnam had resorted to unfair practices, such as the artificially low pricing of its exports in this sector. Such practices are especially unacceptable in view of the fact that these countries already enjoy extraordinary advantages over their competitors. There is therefore no justification for any kind of manipulative approach.

Although the adopted measures are broadly welcome, we do have one or two concerns. The gradual implementation of anti-dumping rights, from a low starting point, may lead to an immediate increase in advance imports from China and Vietnam, which would make the current situation much worse. This is a serious concern. On the other hand, the idea of excluding certain categories of product from the scope of measures also deserves thorough analysis, given the threat of aggressive behaviour, which can only be combated if – as we are hoping – these imports are strictly monitored.


  Sajjad Karim (ALDE). – Mr President, in September I stood here and called on the Commissioner to demonstrate greater foresight in the first post-quota era. Little did I know then that since June, the Commission had statistics showing almost a 700% increase in imports of footwear from China, which indicated the serious state intervention in the sector that the Commission revealed five months later. The cynic in me suggests that these statistics were swept under the carpet in order to end the ‘bra wars’, another sticking plaster when the EU needs long-term solutions.

To add insult to injury, the Commission then went to the press with its plans for anti-dumping duties on leather shoes before even the Member States received the proposals, let alone this Parliament. Commissioner, EU manufacturers and retailers who fear the future in a market swamped with cheap Asian exports need answers, which you hide from them. They need confidence and hope, which you take away from them; and above all they require innovation, ideas and management from you, which you seem unable to provide.

Commissioner, first it was textiles, now it is shoes, next it will be furniture. Unless you demonstrate greater foresight and communicate fully with your EU partners we will not be able to work together and help European industry to face the challenge of these emerging markets.


  Bastiaan Belder (IND/DEM).(NL) Mr President, not even a year after the problems in the textile sector, Europe is about to engage in a fresh trade conflict with China. Time and time again, the rapid economic development of Asian countries takes Europe by surprise, and Europe is once again divided. The EU should not be paralysed, though, by the opposing views adopted in the northern and southern Member States. Once again, the Commission’s policy constitutes a weak compromise between free trade and protectionism. For that reason, the Commission should, as a matter of priority, develop a solid and unambiguous trade policy with the Asian region, so as to break the chain of sectoral conflicts.

While I can understand the frustration felt by the importers and the Member States that do not have an industry of their own, I do take the view that it is vital to remind China of the WTO’s rules. As these words must be backed up by action, I would call on you, Commissioner, to include the documented state intervention in the shoe industry in the negotiations on market economy status for the People’s Republic of China.


  Luca Romagnoli (NI).(IT) Mr Mandelson, ladies and gentlemen, it is the same old story: having abolished all restrictions on the import of footwear products from the Far East and having caused such damage to the European and Italian industries in the sector, with the obvious consequences for employment, we are laying the foundations for definite risks in the future to small and medium-sized enterprises. They will finally be crushed by the unfair competition of goods at the very lowest prices, produced without any proper monitoring of the conditions in the production and distribution chain, either with regard to environmental impact or the social security benefits and employment benefits enjoyed by the labour force.

These are the factors of production on which the business costs advantage operates, unfairly distorting every competitive capacity and transforming it into, instead of the free operation of the market, open dumping that runs counter to the interests not only of one sector, but of the entire Community.

I ask for the Commission to take action to defend the footwear sector against unfair competition from products imported from countries outside the EU, partly in the light of the fact that the monitoring measures so far taken by the EU have proved, in practice, to be useless.

We are calling not just for vigilance, but also for active defence of the special expertise and quality of the European footwear sector, through strict limits on imports, the imposition of duties and the certification of the social and environmental ethical qualities of products, as I have already requested on other occasions.


  Georgios Papastamkos (PPE-DE).(EL) Mr President, I belong to those who support a multilateral, balanced, free world trade system with institutional and political consistency. I mean a system based on even stricter rules, on stronger institutions, on more transparent and democratic procedures.

The increase in imports of leather shoes of up to 500% in 2005, a percentage which Mr Baron Crespo raised to 900%, is not just the product of liberalisation and that must be understood. It is the product of unfair practices in violation of the rules of international trade on the part of China and Vietnam, on the part of two emerging economies.

As other Members said, we lost thousands of jobs and hundreds of productive units disappeared in the European textile industry yesterday and today it will be the shoe industry. The European Union needs to send a clear message, as you intimated Commissioner, and we are all with you in this message. We are behind you. Yes to competition, no to its evident or concealed distortion. The anti-dumping duties – and this should be understood – are not a protective measure; they are a measure of legal commercial defence and, if this measure is to be effective, the duties must be proportionate to the degree of dumping.

To all those who use the better price argument against the imposition of duties, I would counter with the following question: have consumers benefited from the reduction in import prices following liberalisation? My personal opinion is that the few suppliers of products from China and Vietnam have benefited. The Commission should organise its institutional attack, an attack of systematic convergence and effective protection of intellectual and industrial property, an attack against ecological and social dumping, against opaque and unfair practices and state interventions. Otherwise, the accumulation of experiences of violation of the rules of international trade, with the Union reacting after the event, may jeopardise the confidence of European citizens in the fundamental principle of the liberalisation of the world trade system.


  Kader Arif (PSE). – (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, ever since the quota system was abolished last year, imports from China have, as has been mentioned, spectacularly increased by around 500%.

That has serious consequences for the competitiveness of the European footwear sector which, faced with this flood of very low-priced imports, is seeing a number of tragic bankruptcies, to say nothing of the job losses that go with them.

Furthermore, our traditional suppliers in the form of candidate countries and countries in the Euromed area have been ousted from the Community market. The Commission remains silent on this matter and does not seem keen to assess the impact of the damage done by this liberalisation.

Following the complaint lodged by the operators in this sector, you opened an antidumping inquiry. The alarming results of that inquiry bring to light unquestionable evidence of state intervention and of social dumping practices, which cause material loss to our industries.

In order to combat this distortion of the fundamental rules of international trade, you are proposing some measures to us today. I am worried, however, about the gradual entry into force of these antidumping laws over a five-month period, a precedent that I feel is inappropriate and legally questionable and will not be without pernicious effects. These laws should make it possible to eliminate either dumping or the losses it causes. In fact, the proposed progressive rates do not fulfil either of those two alternative conditions. What is more, the exclusion of children’s shoes seems to me to be unjustified and incomprehensible. Your proposals could very quickly prove to be insufficient faced with the extent of the losses suffered by our businesses.

Other initiatives could be taken to counter these unfair commercial practices. For example, it would be possible to open an inquiry in the framework of the provisional safeguard measures applicable to Chinese imports, measures that have the advantage of being simple and effective.

If the Member States asked you to take such initiatives, would the Commission envisage doing so? Might consideration be given, Commissioner, to assessing whether China is actually implementing WTO trade rules and complying with fair and equitable commercial practices, unlike the way in which it is patently violating WTO law? Your proposals are neither robust nor enlightened. After textiles last year and footwear now, which other sectors will have to be subjected to these unfair practices in the future?


  Giulietto Chiesa (ALDE). – (IT) Mr Mandelson, ladies and gentlemen, the Italian situation in the footwear sector prompts me to call for a significant change to the measures proposed by you and in part accepted by the Italian Government. Italy is already paying very high prices in terms of employment.

Mine is a request not in the name of protectionism, but in the name of a calculation of the social impact. It is not a case of affirming or refusing globalisation or the market, and its analysis is measured, in theoretical terms, and also realistic. It is a question of emphases: the path between heaven and hell is a narrow one. Just as there is a fine distinction, as you have said once again here, between tough competition and unfair competition.

I base myself on your words: China and Vietnam have broken the rules. You propose to react, but the dimensions of the dumping seem rather greater than the duties that you propose. I think, quite frankly, that your measures should be revised, with changes to both the figures and the deadlines. In other words, duties should be applied immediately, not in a few months’ time, and they should be increased, by also excluding high-tech sports shoes from the exemption on duties. Otherwise, neither European producers’ nor European consumers’ interests will be protected, nor will the market be well served.


  Patrick Louis (IND/DEM).(FR) Mr President, in the town of Romans, in the department of Drôme, the unemployment rate stands at 18% – twice the French average – because the footwear sector there is devastated and traditional skills disappearing. This collapse is due to the anachronistic application of the Ricardian model underpinning your policy. The new international division of labour has encouraged low-wage countries to specialise in labour-intensive industries, while high-saving countries concentrate on very capital-intensive industries.

Today, growth-starved capital is also leaving those countries. Thus, the countries of the European Union, which used to have a high level of productivity and high wages, are being surpassed by countries that are just as productive but that pay low wages.

In order to prevent a fatal outcome, we must re-read the work of the liberal Maurice Allais, we must rediscover the virtues of the common external tariff of blessed memory and we must protect ourselves outside the Union in order to be free inside it. If we do not do so, then all of our labour-intensive industries will follow in the footsteps of the footwear industry.


  Christofer Fjellner (PPE-DE). – (SV) Commissioner, EU history where anti-dumping is concerned is scary. Well-organised special interests are allowed again and again to impose customs duties in their pursuit of small profits, which turn into large costs for consumers.

When the Commission introduced customs duties on TV sets, consumers had to pay SEK 2.00 for every krona earned by the industry. In the case of the duties on bed linen from Pakistan, every krona that went to the manufacturers cost consumers SEK 3.00. In the case of Norwegian salmon, matters were even worse: every krona earned by the salmon producers cost consumers as much as SEK 70.00. The Commission is therefore failing to take sufficient account of consumers and, thus, of Community interests.

Now, the process has begun of making the same mistake once more – in connection with shoes from China and Vietnam – but this time we know the cost of the policy in advance. The Danish Government conducted a study showing that the costs to consumers in the EU was eight times greater than manufacturers’ profits and that, in total, the EU was losing more than SEK 2.5 billion.

For Sweden, the figure is even more appalling. Each krona earned by Swedish manufacturers costs Swedish consumers SEK 44.00. In total, Swedish consumers can count on paying almost SEK 60 million more for their shoes. The only EU country in which the business is estimated to be profitable is Slovakia, where SEK 300 000 is estimated to be earned. It would be cheaper if we in the European Parliament were to pool our money, in that way preventing people from having to pay duties.

To be honest, I do not believe that that would be a mistake. In spite of everything, the Commission has consciously chosen to make comparisons with expensive shoes from Brazil and measured the increase in imports before the quota was abolished against that after the quota was abolished. Not a single factory has been given market economy status, in spite of its being acknowledged that factories buy leather and labour in a way that is adjusted to conditions in the market. I am seriously concerned about the increasing protectionism I encounter in the EU, and I hope that this is the last time the Commission gives way to the demands of protectionists at the expense of citizens.


  Joan Calabuig Rull (PSE). – (ES) Mr President, the European footwear sector is experiencing difficulties for two reasons: on the one hand, it is suffering as a result of unfair practices, and, on the other, Commissioner, it is still facing tariff difficulties and other practical obstacles when it comes to accessing third-country markets.

I believe that all of this makes it necessary to take effective action to tackle dumping, enabling us to react fairly, but swiftly, in order to prevent speculative movements and ultimately a greater increase in imports while we are waiting for measures to be taken, as happened in the case of textiles.

The Commission’s proposal on the antidumping procedure relating to footwear from China and Vietnam is reasonable and balanced, but it contains surprising elements that many people cannot understand, such as not applying the measures that you have proposed either to children’s shoes – which, as you know, are worn not only by children – or to special technology athletic footwear (STAF).

Where dumping exists, duties will have to be imposed that are effective in guaranteeing fair competition conditions and, in this regard, the level of duties and their practical application should be based on their effectiveness, that is to say on how effective they are in eliminating dumping.


  Daniel Caspary (PPE-DE).(DE) Mr President, Commissioner, what is lacking in the European Union is a strategy for facing up to globalisation. The globalisation fund now provides us with a means of dealing with the past, but what solutions do we have for the future? My initial reaction to this was that this is the same sort of protectionism that we find with regard to textiles, and that would be a bad thing, for we need free and fair access to markets throughout the world. That is important to our producers within the European Union, and it is important that we in the European Union should keep to the rules, just as we demand that our trading partners should do.

After I had got my hands on more information, it became clear to me that this is not protectionism, but dumping, and it became clear to me that the measures you are putting in place are, technically speaking, better planned than those you took to deal with textiles back then, but I can also see that our actions, now as then, are inconsistent, and inconsistency will be seen by the Chinese as a sign of weakness. I can still see why we have taken sports shoes out of the procedure, but why have we done so with children’s shoes? Either this is dumping that we are dealing with or it is not.

I do not think it makes any sense whatever to argue on the basis of the effect on consumers, for in no way have they benefited from the reduced import prices over the past few years, and, when one considers that a shoe imported for EUR 6.50 can retail for EUR 120, it becomes clear that there is no justification whatever for the importers' warnings of price increases, which, it is claimed, will be of the order of 20%.

Let us take a look at the issue of China. What lies behind this dumping? One aspect I find deeply disturbing; businesses are unable to keep proper accounts or ensure proper management. That is part of the reason. On the other hand, though, I am also seriously worried about the ever-increasing role played by the state in dumping, about the unjustified prices for land, about the tax reliefs for export businesses, about the banks’ unrecoverable loans, about the subsidised costs of raw materials, and about much else besides. It simply makes no sense, then, to do as some in the Commission seem to want to do, and recognise China as a market economy. Here too, we must be consistent.

In all these respects, I would like to see us, in future, demonstrating more consistency and making a better job of keeping to the rules.


  Elisa Ferreira (PSE). – (PT) I wish to begin by expressing my support for the proposal to adopt anti-dumping measures in the footwear sector. This was the least we could ask for given that dumping destroys the very essence of freedom of trade. Europe’s industry must not die of apathy and of complicity with such practices.

Given the lack of time I shall limit myself to two remarks. Given that we know dumping takes place, it makes no sense to allow it to be tolerated. This is what will happen with the proposed gradual approach to implementing anti-dumping measures. There is no justification for this gradual approach.

My second remark is that excluding children’s footwear is totally unacceptable. There is no justification, no legal basis and no technical foundation for such a move. To pursue this and other unjustified exclusions totally undermines the credibility of these measures. I therefore call for a complete rethink of these aspects.

Lastly, it is crucial that the Commission abandon its constantly reactive position and begin to achieve results in its political priority of opening up third-country markets for European footwear exports, and in particular the Japanese market, mechanisms of access to the Russian market and indeed the Chinese market.


  Syed Kamall (PPE-DE). – Mr President, I wish to begin by thanking the Commission for learning from its past experience. I am glad the decision has been taken not to impose quotas on import issues since this would have been disastrous for the whole supply chain and for consumers, and I think we all agree on that.

However, we need to ask in whose interests these anti-dumping duties are being imposed. I cannot see how consumers will benefit. Whether we like it or not, European citizens are voting with their wallets and buying imported footwear. Imposing duties could punish consumers by increasing the price they pay for their footwear.

I agree that some of the predicted price rises may be alarmist, but there will be price rises. We are told that a 20% duty on the import price of shoes should not lead to a large increase in the retail price. Retailers and others in the supply chain are expected to absorb the duties. However, in this day and age I am astounded that the Commission believes that it knows best how retailers and shoe companies should run their businesses and how much they should be charging their customers. What has happened to the laws of supply and demand between sellers and European citizens and consumers?

If the Commission truly feels that retailers are making too high a margin on shoes, then it should launch an investigation into the competitiveness of the shoe industry, not punish retailers and the supply chain by using the blunt instrument of anti-dumping duties. Is pushing up the prices of shoes from China and Vietnam really going to help European producers, or will it simply force retailers to source their shoes from other non-EU markets, such as India?

Finally, can we really take the high ground and complain about the Chinese Government subsidising the footwear industry when we spend so much of our EU budget on subsidising inefficient farmers? Let us in the EU throw away the post-war protectionist model and take a lead in embracing globalisation.


  Pia Elda Locatelli (PSE). – (IT) Mr President, Mr Mandelson, ladies and gentlemen, I would just like to say that I have the impression that this measure is now devoid of substance. Sports shoes have been excluded, but how do we define sports shoes? Children’s shoes have been excluded; I and many, many other women still wear these shoes despite not having been children for some time.

The application of anti-dumping measures has taken place with a sluggishness that has not been seen before, and above all anti-dumping duties are being proposed that are not sufficient to tackle a situation of unfair competition that the Commission itself defines as serious.

So I ask you: do you not believe that lurking behind the defence of consumers, in particular poorer families, as you wrote in Sunday’s Le Figaro, there is also, or perhaps chiefly – I do not know – an attempt to protect the interests of multinationals?

Do you not believe that the Commission’s policy, which I consider to be at times ambiguous, might endanger the important, if not unique, instrument of European commercial policy?

Finally, I would like you to comment on what is happening in the bed linen sector since, in this case too, the action taken by the Commission is not easy to understand.


  Peter Mandelson, Member of the Commission. Mr President, if you do not mind I shall not go along the course of answering the point about bed linen at this precise moment. In the time I have available I think it would be better to stick to shoes, but I can assure you that the question of any anti-dumping duty on bed linen will be properly assessed and properly applied as, in my opinion, it is at the moment.

I think that the value of debates such as this and the important role of this Parliament are demonstrated by the very important and insightful observations that have been made during the last 45 minutes. My role on behalf of the Commission is to listen to what honourable Members have to say and to reflect very carefully on the points and arguments that have been raised. I can assure you I will reflect on them and on the observations made by Member States so that when I come back to the Commission with final recommendations I will be able to do so having heard the variety, diversity and range of different points and arguments that have been made.

However, having heard so many people this afternoon complain that my intervention is protectionist, unnecessary and unjustified, alongside a slightly greater number of Members of this House who have complained that I am not going far enough, my actions are inadequate and that I should go further, I am tempted to make the easy observation that perhaps I have got the measures just about right between those two rival points of view! However, tempting as it is to make that rather cheap observation, I am going to avoid doing so.

I should like to say, though, that I agree particularly with Mr Papastamkos and Mrs Saïfi, both of whom see the need to intervene against anti-competitive and trade-distorting behaviour by our partners, but at the same time to do so with a degree of perspective and balance that I think it behoves me to uphold. I think Mr Assis is right in that, in the provisional measures that are introduced, it is important that we maintain careful monitoring and surveillance of the effect of what we are doing so as to ensure that, if there is circumvention of our duties, we are able to review the situation and perhaps take revised action when we come to the definitive stage of our measures later this year.

Let me very quickly respond to some of the other points that have been made.

Some have drawn a parallel between the proposed action on shoes and the action that we took on textiles. They are very different cases. In the case of textiles, we were dealing with fairly-traded goods, albeit subject to a dramatic and sudden increase in volume following the lifting of quotas on Chinese textiles at the beginning of 2005. We therefore took a safeguard measure by the introduction of quotas, as we are entitled to do. We were not, as in this case, dealing with anti-competitive measures – dumping actions – that attract an anti-dumping measure in the form of a tariff duty – not a quota and not a physical limit. Therefore I do not anticipate our running into the temporary teething problems that we had in the case of textiles. This should be remembered by those who describe the textile period as involving us in some sort of war or battle with China. Far from it. We were able to agree with China the measures that we took, in a very unwarlike way.

Two other points were raised by a number of Members. One concerns the impact on consumer prices. Let us put this case into perspective. It concerns only nine pairs of shoes from every 100 pairs bought by European consumers; in other words, a fraction of the product range. A duty would be just over EUR 1.50 on average wholesale prices of EUR 8.50 on shoes which then sell for between EUR 40 and EUR 120, as opposed to a duty which would simply amount to EUR 1.50. Please do not tell me that EUR 1.50 cannot be absorbed across the supply chain by importers and retailers, especially importers and retailers who have benefited from low import prices from China and Vietnam but who have not passed on the effects of those cheaper import prices to consumers – a question that consumers may put to their retailers if they are able to encounter them at some stage in the future.

A number of Members have asked me why I am proposing to exclude sports technology shoes and children’s shoes. In the case of the sports shoes, these are excluded from the investigation because they are not produced in Europe in sufficient quantity to qualify as being potentially harmed by dumping. There is therefore no injury to European producers because they barely exist in the case of these sports shoes.

In the case of children’s shoes, the exclusion I am proposing is on the grounds of Community interest. Young children need three to four pairs of new shoes per year. The impact of a duty on the price of such shoes is therefore potentially greater than it is for ordinary shoes.

In my view, parents should not see any potential hurdles put in the way of buying good-quality shoes for their children. Those who want me to reclassify the customs segmentation for these shoes should bear in mind that the customs classification for children is up to size 37½ with heels less than 3cm. Whilst I am prepared to discuss that with my colleagues in TAXUD, it is a classification that I am given, not one that I propose.

Let me make just briefly one or two other quick observations. There was a suggestion that the investigation had taken too long. This sampling takes time. I am obliged by the regulations that exist within the European Community to observe very strict procedures and use very strict reference countries and companies when I am investigating those of another country that does not enjoy market economy status.

Therefore, just as I cannot anticipate dumping complaints – some Members were complaining that I do not show enough foresight, as if I have a crystal ball before me that is going to reveal where the next dumping complaint is going to come from – I cannot pre-empt proper procedures and investigations that are laid out in our regulations and which I am obliged to follow in detail.

Let me reply to the suggestion that somehow there was a breach of confidentiality. I do not understand this. Member States received the Commission’s working document before my press conference on 23 February. The moment these working documents go out to Member States I can assure you that they are as good as published to the media. I therefore have to clarify them immediately and explain and justify what I am doing. This certainly does not deprive Member States of their right to express an opinion on the case or to receive detailed replies from the Commission’s services.

I shall leave the matter there, except to say in conclusion that it is very important that we see what is happening in China, Vietnam, India and other Asian countries in some perspective. Of course there is tough competition and there is a difficult challenge for European producers and manufacturers to rise to, and we have an obligation to do everything we can to help European producers rise to this challenge and to help those employed in companies adjust to the challenges and the new circumstances of international trade which we are experiencing. I do not believe that a proper and legitimate way of helping people to adjust to these new forces in the global economy is to encourage people to shelter from them or to pretend that, if we close our eyes or cover our heads with a blanket, these changes, challenges and new sources of competition will somehow go away and leave us alone so that we do not have to respond to them.

Any politician giving that sort of message to the public would be guilty of false leadership, and poor leadership to the public, who need to understand what is going on and help to respond to it. We cannot maintain the pretence that we in Europe, by retreating from the competitive challenge we are facing in the global economy, will somehow be able to hide from it and, at the same time, maintain our living standards and our prosperity in the future. We cannot and will not do that.

We have to respond to this challenge by putting the emphasis on our competitiveness, innovation and ability to respond to change and to compete more effectively in the future. If we do not rise to that challenge and do not set that out to our public, we cannot blame them subsequently for reacting with fear and mystification to what is taking place in the global economy.





  Erika Mann (PSE). – Mr President, I would like to ask the Commissioner if he could make a short comment on a question raised by many of our colleagues on granting market economy status to China.


  Peter Mandelson, Member of the Commission. Mr President, China is not yet qualified to receive recognition of market economy status by Europe. There are technical criteria that China needs to fulfil, and it is making progress towards doing so. Indeed we can, should and are giving every assistance to China to enable it more easily and rapidly to make the technical changes that will enable it to fulfil those criteria. It is important to do that.

Let me add this related comment. The environment in which Member States and Members of this House come to judge the market economy status of China will be helped and encouraged by China doing more than it is at the moment to open its markets to our exports and to others’ trade, to make sure that it is in full compliance with its WTO accession commitments, and to make sure that where it is taking longer than is reasonable to move towards full compliance with those commitments and WTO rules it makes the necessary changes sooner rather than later. If China were to do that, and to respond to the anxieties felt in Europe and around the world about the growth of its export capacity in a way that rebalanced the terms of trade – so that as well as people seeing goods coming in ever-growing numbers from China, they were also to see those containers being refilled and returned to China with European and other goods – it would do more than anything else to still public anxiety about what we are seeing in China. Understandably, people in Europe see the growth of China’s market as a threat, but we must understand it as a huge opportunity for us in Europe to sell our own goods and services to that market in future.

However, China has a responsibility to make sure that no artificial or unreasonable barriers remain in place to European goods and services being sold to the Chinese market in ever-growing numbers. When we get that equation right, then perhaps people will be able to look more sympathetically, as well as technically, at the issue of China’s market economy status.



  President. The debate is closed.

Written statements (Rule 142)


  Alessandro Battilocchio (NI). – (IT) I welcome the Commission’s diligence in listening to the demands of small and medium-sized European enterprises worried by the increase in imports from non-EU countries, and the latest proposal for compensatory anti-dumping duties on leather shoes, against China and Vietnam. I believe, however, that the measures put forward are still totally inadequate given the severity of the issue. The duties proposed are inadequate because they are too low and therefore ineffective. The phasing-in period (six months) is inadequate, since it is a procedure that is too feeble for such a serious case of dumping. The exclusion of non-professional sports shoes and children’s shoes (which can also include women’s shoes) is also unacceptable.

I would also point out that another fundamental request, which is the compulsory introduction of a label of origin for products entering the EU, has been dragging on for two years without the Member States being able to come to agreement.

It is also necessary to tackle the worrying increase in swap practices – in other words, anomalous movements of products with the aim of bypassing more stringent customs controls (imports from Belgium have increased by an amount of 17.8%, which is absolutely inexplicable). The calls by the Commission to make innovative changes are reasonable and interesting, but they make sense only in a genuinely equitable and fair competitive environment, and the Commission has a duty to ensure that the international market is just that.


  Glyn Ford (PSE). – I want to raise with the Commissioner the plight of a factory in my constituency – 'Dickies' in Midsomer Norton, near Radstock in Somerset – whose future and workforce are threatened by any adverse outcome from your services' current investigation of an anti-dumping complaint regarding protective footwear imported from China.

I have met with representatives of both management and the workforce, including trade union representatives from GMB, and they are united in stating that jobs and livelihoods are at stake should the Commission impose anti-dumping duties on this particular sector. The imported footwear from China underpins the distribution and manufacturing sections in the Midsomer Norton plant. Those who introduced the complaint do not manufacture generally in Europe, but source form other third countries rather than China. I believe the investigation will find that no damage has been done to European industry by these imports from China and in fact the plants concerned, most of which have applied for market economy status, have not engaged in dumping. Stop this threatened tax on protection, relieve people's understandable concerns and close the file as soon as possible.


  Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL).(PT) The situation in the footwear sector is alarming, not least in Portugal.

Just by way of an example, dozens of businesses – among them Ecco and Rhode – in Aveiro District, closed down or laid off workers in 2005. Unemployment and the risk of poverty have increased, a case in point being C & J Clarks in Castelo de Paiva, where workers were promised work, training and subsidies, only for them to be laid off just two years later.

Once again, we must report that:

- With the steep rise in footwear imports from third countries, it was not the so-called consumer whose wallet became fatter, but the large retailers and distributors who accumulated fabulous profits;

- It is not third countries that are responsible for the closure of businesses and the loss of jobs; it is the EU, which is at the head of the queue to promote competition and liberalisation of international trade and which maintains the euro at a level that harms manufacturing and exporting, as in the case of footwear.

The real losers in this policy are the workers, small, medium-sized and micro-enterprises, and countries such as Portugal, as borne out by studies and, more importantly, reality.


  David Martin (PSE). – It is clear that the EU is facing new competitive challenges on the world market, challenges which cause anxiety and uncertainty for our industry, our workers and our consumers. Yet as we adjust to the new global environment we must avoid the populist appeal of protectionist measures which are at best a short-term panacea for long-term ills.

In this instance, however, it appears that there has been a well-documented case of dumping and injury to the European industry. Whilst I fear that some EU companies with good employment standards and interests in the Far East (for example Clarks shoes) will be hit by these measures, I am pleased to see certain exemptions to the punitive tariff proposed by the Commission have been obtained, namely in the sensitive children’s footwear sector.

On balance I think that the Commission has hit the right note here. I am inclined to agree with the Commissioner when he states that consumers should be more concerned about the mark-up enjoyed until now by retailers on goods produced cheaply in poor employment and environmental conditions and then sold below the cost of production. Our partners must now address these social and employment issues, issues which we ourselves have faced and dedicated much time and effort to overcoming jointly through the European project.

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