Held only a few weeks before the European Union decided to impose retaliatory duties on footwear and other items imported from the U.S., last month's UITIC Congress in Porto was also the stage for a joint declaration against protectionism issued by the International Footwear Forum of the European Confederation of the Footwear Industry (CEC).

Representatives from the footwear industry associations of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, France, Italy, Portugal, South Africa, Spain and the U.S. committed themselves to work together for free and fair trade in the footwear sector, recognizing that protectionsim reduces consumption, investment and employment opportunities. They expressed their opposition to any tariff or non-tariff barriers, and asked policy-makers to work toward the establishment of a level playing field for an open and fair global market, with no dumping and counterfeiting.

Then, on June 6, the European Commission announced a decision to impose higher duties on shoes and a variety of other products coming in from the U.S., starting on July 1, as part of a response to the import tariffs that President Donald Trump's administration had decided to order on imports of steel and aluminum from the U.S., starting on June 1.

An additional 25 percent counterveiling duty will apply to products that represent annual imports from the U.S. worth about €2.8 billion. The European Union is threatening to add duties of between 10 and 50 percent to other products worth €3.6 billion a year by March 2021 if the U.S. keeps its duties on steel and aluminum.

Besides orange juice, bourbon whiskey and other products, including T-shirts, jeans and many other types of apparel, a total of 17 classification of shoes are among the products covered by the European Commission's decision, which is set to be validated by the member governments before the end of this month. However, the impact will be relatively minor for European shoe importers and retailers, according to the European Confederation of the Footwear Industry (CEC), as the imports of these footwear products from the U.S. amounted to less than €2.5 million in 2016.

The latest U.S. measures, which came after the imposition of similar measures against China, are described by observers as being aligned with the tough attitude being used by Trump's government to extract all sorts of concessions from other governments on various issues, playing on the strong economic power of his country.