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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 September 2006, 17:19 GMT 18:19 UK
EU postpones vote on shoe imports
Shoe shop in Vietnam
EU members are split on the issue
European Union (EU) member states have postponed a vote on whether to impose import tariffs on leather shoes brought into Europe from China and Vietnam.

Duties of 16.5% for China and 10% for Vietnam have been proposed after the European Commission said earlier this year it had found evidence of dumping.

The delay, until next week, comes as EU members are divided over the issue.

While the EU's main shoe-producing nations are leading calls for the tariffs, others are against them.

Lower costs

Italy, the EU's largest shoemaker, is heading the campaign for the duties to be put in place, saying imports of under-priced Chinese and Vietnamese shoes put its industry at risk and threatens tens of thousands of jobs.

However, northern European countries such as the UK, Germany and the Nordic states believe that the proposals are too harsh, and represent an unwelcome barrier to trade.

With the split said to be fairly even, the deadline for a vote on the issue is Friday, 7 October, when current provisional duties brought in earlier this year expire.

The quantity of shoes imported from China and Vietnam has risen dramatically over the past five years.

In 2005, 1.25 billion pairs were brought into the EU from China, and 265 million pairs from Vietnam.

Low manufacturing costs in both countries mean that such imports are very cheap, and attractive to retailers; but some in Europe say Chinese and Vietnamese firms also benefit from government subsidies.

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