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China launches WTO complaint against EU shoe levy

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(BEIJING) - Beijing on Thursday launched a complaint with the World Trade Organisation over European Union penalty taxes on imports of Chinese shoes it said violated WTO rules, the commerce ministry said.

"China... has made a request for consultations to the WTO dispute settlement body regarding the anti-dumping measures taken by the EU against Chinese shoes," the commerce ministry said in a statement on its website.

It added China had "officially launched a WTO dispute settlement procedure."

The EU decided in December 2009 to extend punitive taxes on imports of Chinese and Vietnamese leather shoes -- first introduced more than three years ago as an anti dumping measure -- by a further 15 months.

Dumping occurs when a product is sold in a foreign market at less than its domestic cost price.

In the statement, commerce ministry spokesman Yao Jian said the EU's anti-dumping investigations and rulings on Chinese shoes "violate WTO rules and undermine the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese businesses."

Already in December, China had protested the decision, and announced it would launch a complaint with the WTO.

This constitutes the first step in the dispute settlement process of the WTO, and can last for up to 60 days. After that, if talks to resolve the issue have failed, a special group is set up to examine the complaint.

The EU measures, designed to protect European leather manufacturers from below-cost Asian competition, carry import duties of 16.5 percent levied on Chinese shoes with leather uppers and 10 percent on shoes from Vietnam.

In December, Yao pointed out that European products did not compete directly with Chinese products, adding it was meaningless to continue to impose anti-dumping measures against China.

Bigger manufacturers that make their shoes in Asia such as Diesel, Adidas and Puma, have also fought against the renewal of the tariffs.

Figures from the European Commission show that Chinese and Vietnamese shoes make up 30 percent of the EU footwear market.

Yao said in Thursday's statement that the decision to extend the anti-dumping measures did not take into consideration "the interests of general consumers".

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