Numerous European shoe importers interviewed at recent fairs indicated to us that they were trying to accelerate their manufacture and shipment from China or Vietnam in order to avoid the payment of possible anti-dumping duties. Others said they were looking for alternative sources such as Indonesia or India. In any case, pricing levels are being less affected by the threatened measures than by ordinary inflationary factors.

On the other hand, most of the predominantly small or medium Chinese shoemakers exhibiting at the Asia Pacific Leather Fair in early October said either that they would be unaffected by the threatened duties or that there was nothing they could do about them. No one reported any contingency plans to adjust pricing, move manufacturing operations or switch categories of production. Yet, more than one factory said the duties would prevent them from entering the European market.

There is still no word from Brussels on the timing or the level of the duties being contemplated. The latest reports indicate that they may hit only the shoes previously covered by the European import quotas above a price of $20 a pair if they are brought in from China. Imports of these categories from Vietnam would all be taxed, regardless of price. These reports could not be confirmed at the time of going to press. There was also no indication about the timing of the anti-dumping duties. They may be imposed as of next month or as late as next February.

Meanwhile, the European Commission has published on a dedicated website (http://sigl.cec.eu.int/) the figures on footwear imports from China into the 25-nation European Union of the products previously covered by quotas for the first 7 months of this year. While omitting the comparative figures for the first four months of 2005, prior to the enlargement of the EU, a compilation of the statistics published by ANCI, the Italian shoe industry association, confirms a big surge year-on-year.

The EU imported a total of 378.9 million pairs of shoes previously subject to quotas from China through the end of July, or 432 percent more than in the same period a year ago, and their average price fell by 21 percent to €4.85. This includes 114.5 million pairs of shoes with leather uppers at an average of €10.58 per pair, or an increase of 525 percent in volume and a decrease of 27 percent in their average value.

Considering that shipments of new merchandise into Europe tend to pick up from the second half of August, the chairman of ANCI, Rossano Soldini, is expecting even higher rates of increase during the second half of this year. While asking for the reintroduction of import quotas on leather shoes, he said that he agreed with a proposal to impose differential anti-dumping duties on individual companies only if it would not create a bureaucratic nightmare that would make these measures ineffective.