Pascal Lamy, the European Union’s trade commissioner, finally presented a formal proposal for mandatory labels of origin to a technical committee of the European Commission last Dec. 19 for discussion among the experts of the member governments and subsequent approval by the European Council. Responding to the requests of the Italian shoe industry association, ANCI, and other powerful organizations, the Italian government had put strong pressure on the Commission to put out a proposal on this issue before the end of its half-year mandate, as reported in the previous issue of Shoe Intelligence.

Lamy’s working document reportedly suggests that all the products sold in the EU should carry a label of origin – be it “made in Italy” or “made in China” – as is already the case in the USA and Japan. Its presentation to the member states doesn’t imply yet a victory for ANCI and other shoe manufacturers’ associations in Spain, Portugal or Greece, in view of the opposition from other EU countries that have more liberal trade policies, but contrary to a previous report, CEC, the Confederation of the European Shoe Industry, has reached a consensus on the issue. The action in Brussels is being greeted by ANCIas a highly positive step which offsets in a way a partial defeat on the domestic front.

Just before Christmas, the Italian Parliament cut back from €400 million to €310 million the extraordinary funds that the Italian government had requested to help promote in various ways all kinds of products made in Italy, including footwear, more strongly abroad over the next 3 years. The project of a permanent exhibition of them in Rome has been abolished. The budget cuts will be of about €20 million in 2004, €30 million in 2005 and €20 million in 2006. They will be allocated among the 30-40 industrial sectors that were supposed to benefit from them, and ANCI will try to make sure that the footwear industry’s strong contribution to the Italian trade balance will be taken into account.

Reports from Spain indicate that the Spanish government is cutting back significantly its own subsidies for the participation of national firms in foreign exhibitions, but FICE, the Spanish shoe industry federation, says it has persuaded government authorities to implement certain measures that should soften the impact of these budget cuts.

For their part, Italians shoemakers hope that the normal subsidies allocated to the sector by ICE, the Italian foreign trade institute, will at least be maintained. One of the new initiatives supported by ICE will be its first trade mission to Dubai involving a certain number of Italian shoe and clothing firms – about 20 and 30, respectively. It will take place next Feb. 8-10.