British Re­tail Con­sor­tium crit­i­cises tax on Chi­nese crock­ery

The Pak Banker - - Front Page -

LON­DON

EU taxes on Chi­nese crock­ery are at odds with fair trade prin­ci­ples, says British Re­tail Con­sor­tium New EU taxes on Chi­nese crock­ery and cook­ware are at odds with the prin­ci­ples of free trade and will lead to point­less price rises for hard-pressed cus­tomers, said the British Re­tail Con­sor­tium (BRC).

The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion an­nounced the pro­vi­sional du­ties, on Thurs­day de­spite fierce op­po­si­tion from a ma­jor­ity of mem­ber states, in­clud­ing the UK.

Anger at the move has been ex­ac­er­bated be­cause the Com­mis­sion has given im­porters just 24 hours’ notice of the new taxes. From Fri­day mid­night, they will add be­tween 17.6 per cent and 58.8 per cent to the dockside price of ce­ramic items in­clud­ing plates, cups and oven dishes ar­riv­ing in the EU from China.

Four­teen of the EU’s 27 mem­bers voted against the planned mea­sures at a meet­ing of trade spe­cial­ists in Oc­to­ber, a highly un­usual move that left the com­mis­sion hav­ing to re­think its plans.

The com­mis­sion can im­pose pro­vi­sional du­ties while an in­ves­ti­ga­tion con­tin­ues. Un­der EU rules, it only con­sults mem­ber states, but is not bound by their vote.

How­ever, it does need to fol­low the ma­jor­ity opin­ion of mem­ber states for de­fin­i­tive du­ties, which would need to be set for these prod­ucts by 15 May. These would nor­mally be set for five years.

Stephen Robert­son, di­rec­tor gen­eral of the British Re­tail Con­sor­tium, said: “This is the wrong de­ci­sion badly han­dled. The prin­ci­ple here is that free trade is good for the cus­tomer.

These new du­ties will feed through to higher prices in stores. And, be­cause China mainly sup­plies the value end of the mar­ket, they will deny less well-off cus­tomers ac­cess to af­ford­able crock­ery.

“The way of­fi­cials are treat­ing busi­nesses en­gaged in nearly three quar­ter of a bil­lion eu­ros of trade is ut­terly un­ac­cept­able. How can com­pa­nies be expected to plan mil­lions of pounds worth of buy­ing with no cer­tainty about whether their costs will rocket overnight?”

The du­ties are the re­sult of a ninemonth in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the com­mis- sion into claims by an anony­mous Euro­pean man­u­fac­turer that Chi­nese pro­duc­ers are sell­ing these into the EU at ar­ti­fi­cially low prices.

The EU mar­ket for ce­ramic table­ware and kitchen­ware is worth 1.5 bil­lion (Dh5.5 bil­lion). Half of that (730 mil­lion) comes from China, said the com­mis­sion. In vol­ume terms, 80 per cent of all the EU’s im­ports of ce­ramic table­ware come from China.

It is es­ti­mated that the du­ties will add 287 mil­lion to im­porters’ costs. The Com­mis­sion is in­ves­ti­gat­ing 44 dump­ing and sub­si­dies cases, 21 of them in­volv­ing China. The Euro­pean Union is China’s big­gest trad­ing part­ner.

Al­though his­tor­i­cally, Euro­pean china was a cheaply priced al­ter­na­tive to the gen­uine Asian prod­uct, the Com­mis­sion said that in the mod­ern era im­ports were crowd­ing out do­mes­tic sales.

Some Chi­nese man­u­fac­tur­ers ar­gued that Chi­nese-look­ing items should be ex­cluded from du­ties, say­ing that pro­duc­ers had al­ways ex­ported them to Europe and that they had spe­cial uses. But the com­mis­sion dis­agreed, say­ing EU pro­duc­ers could also man­u­fac­ture Chi­nese-style ce­ram­ics. Euro­pean im­porters say the du­ties would harm con­sumers and traders and ar­gue that Euro­pean pro­duc­ers can­not meet lo­cal de­mand, mean­ing im­ports would be sought from other coun­tries, such as Bangladesh and Viet­nam.

They and Chi­nese pro­duc­ers hope EU mem­bers that voted against the mea­sures will continue their op­po­si­tion.

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