The management of Anci, the Italian shoe industry association, and industry executives at last month's World Footwear Congress in Rio de Janeiro expressed concern about the possibility of an increase in the import duties applied by the Russian Federation and Kazakhstan as a result of their customs union with Belarus, which has been protective of its footwear industry. Sources indicated that the import duties on leather shoes may be doubled to around 20 percent.

Anci said it would be a step in the opposite direction for Russia, an important market for Italian footwear that doesn't need any protection, as it gears up for its possible entry into the World Trade Organization. Italy's shoe exports to Russia and the rest of the Commonwealth of Independent States increased by 15.9 percent in volume and by 22.8 percent in value in the first seven months of 2011, reaching levels of 8 million pairs and €425 million, respectively. They recovered in 2010 after the economic crisis in 2008 and 2009.

Anci reported satisfactory results in terms of attendance and new orders at the Obuv fair held last Oct. 18-21 in Moscow, which was visited by more than 8,000 trade professionals, up strongly from 6,622 recorded one year earlier. The fair played host to 170 shoe manufacturers and 31 producers of leathergoods and other accessories. Anci organized an Italian restaurant at the fair and created an advertisement on the Fashion TV satellite channel, produced by the famous Italian photographer Oliviero Toscani.

Satisfactory results were also reported for the events organized by Anci last month in Kiev and Almaty, the capital of Kazakhstan. In Kiev, 23 Italian companies received visits by 120 professionals. In Almaty, 55 companies met with 250 professionals from several Central Asian countries including Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Similar trade events will be held in March and April.