British Retail Consortium criticises tax on Chinese crockery
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.