China, which joined the WTO in 2001, filed its first unfair trade case against the European Union in July 2009, also involving antidumping duties.
The latest move appeared intended to increase pressure on the European Union, which had itself been sharply divided over extending the shoe tariffs.
In a statement issued by its mission in Geneva, where the WTO is based, the Chinese government said Europe’s actions ‘violated various obligations under the WTO and consequently caused damage to the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese exporters.’ It added that China ‘had repeatedly consulted’ with the European Union but said that its concerns ‘had not been properly addressed or settled.’
In an eight-page legal complaint, the Chinese government requested consultations on both the original 2006 decision to impose the shoe duties and last year’s move to extend them. The EU and the U.S. have sought to stem the flow of Chinese imports with special duties.
In the EU case, China is taking on one of the most important tariff increases ever levied, which has negatively impacted its shoe industry. The 16.5% tariffs are antidumping duties, meant to punish goods that are sold below cost and hurt the sales of domestic producers. The EU duties were inaugurated in 2006 and extended for 15 months in December 2009. At the same time, shoe imports from Vietnam were hit with a 10% tariff.
The EU dismissed the complaint. ‘Antidumping duties are not about protectionism’, said spokesman John Clancy. ‘They are about fighting unfair trade.’ The measures, he said, were imposed only on ‘evidence that dumping of Chinese products has taken place and that this is harming the otherwise competitive EU industry.’