Vito Artioli, president of the powerful Italian shoe industry association, Anci, was elected to a renewable two-year term as the new president of the European Confederation of the Footwear Industry, CEC, at its annual meeting this week in Krakow, Poland. The elderly Italian shoemaker takes the place of Rafael Calvo, president of the Spanish shoe industry association, who has been made honorary president.

Artioli was elected after a debate among the delegates from eight national shoe industry associations, members of CEC, that showed up at the meeting. Only one of them abstained and none of the others opposed his bid. He was the only candidate for the post. Another Italian, Rossano Soldini, was the president of CEC before Calvo.

The meeting also approved four vice presidents proposed by Roeland Smets, who remains as secretary general of CEC. They are Cleto Sagripanti from Italy, Jean-Pierre Renaudin from France, Manuel Costa da Silva from Portugal and Dimitri Paliokostas from Greece. It is not sure, however, whether Renaudin, who was only recently elected as president of the French shoe industry federation, will accept the post.

Artioli, whose family company is one of the best known Italian manufacturers of dressy men’s footwear, was appointed president of Anci two years ago. His term at the head of Anci was up for renewal at a board meeting earlier this month, but the decision was postponed to July 2 because the quorum of votes was deemed insufficient at the end of a long general assembly. He was the only candidate for this post as well.

The election of Artioli confirms CEC’s role as the body that represents the interests of European shoe manufacturers, to the exclusion of shoe importers and manufacturers of components, even though some of the 17 member associations of CEC have many importers among their own members. Turkey and other countries that are not members of the European Union belong to CEC, and another one, Tunisia, is likely to join soon.

Anyhow, Artioli’s nomination clearly supports CEC’s determination to keep the current anti-dumping duties on leather shoes from China and Vietnam in place through the so-called «expiry review» being conducted by the European Commission to see whether they should be kept beyond October 2009.

Investigators from the Commission are expected to release the results of their investigation next month, but the final decision will likely be dictated mainly by political considerations. One of the possibilities being voiced is the phasing out of duties only for Vietnam or for China.

Industry officials give a 50-50 chance for the continuation of the duties, as both manufacturers and importers seem to have good arguments and favor and against. Basically, the manufacturers insist that, technically dumping action has continued, but the importers criticize the choice of Brazil as the reference country to calculate dumping margins because of different working methods and other reasons. The manufacturers state that two years of protection have been insufficient for the European shoe industry to restructure, while importers note that European production has gone down in spite of the previous import quotas.

Meanwhile, representatives of the recently constituted European Footwear Alliance (EFA) have been lobbying a majority of the member governments of the European Union over the past few weeks to abolish the duties, and they plan to intensify their action. The 2,000-odd members of EFA are the big and small athletic and outdoor footwear brands represented by the European Sporting Goods Federation (Fesi), the European Outdoor Group (EOG) and the European Branded Footwear Coalition (EBFC), which groups the members of the German shoe industry association (HDS) and industry heavyweights such as Clarks, ECCO, Pentland, Merrell and Timberland. The EFA hopes to rally new members among the companies currently represented by the CEC through its national associations.

Karl Sedlmeyer, an executive of Adidas who runs the EFA, is questioning the representativeness of the parties that lodged the anti-dumping complaints and some of the procedures used by the Commission in establishing dumping and injury. Noting that imports from China and Vietnam have decreased in volume and increased in value since the imposition of the duties in October 2006, the EFA maintains that European producers, some of which import an increasing amount of components from the Far East, have been affected more by such factors as the effect of the strong euro on their exports, high labor costs and the difficulty of finding skilled labor.

The EFA is also concerned about the domino effect of the EU investigation on international footwear trade. Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, various Central American countries, Russia and Kazakhstan have all enacted or have been contemplating protective measure against China, Vietnam or any foreign country since the European anti-dumping duties were enforced.