China urged the European Union Tuesday to resolve a brewing trade row over cheap shoes through World Trade Organization rules, while conceding such issues were bound to flare as bilateral commerce grew.
Probably produced for the European market
"We think that the two sides should respect each other and follow the principle of equality and properly handle the issue in accordance with World Trade Organization regulations," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said.
Liu was responding to a European Commission announcement Monday that it was poised to take anti-dumping action against Chinese and Vietnamese shoemakers.
EU trade chief Peter Mandelson is to propose a course of action to member states this week, his spokesman said, which an EU source said could result in a 20 percent tariff on imports of Chinese and Vietnamese shoes with leather uppers.
Pointing to a similar row between the two sides last year over textiles that was eventually fixed through negotiations, Liu indicated the disputes were an unavoidable part of trade that could be resolved amicably.
"Last year we had trade negotiations that successfully resolved some issues," he said. "As Sino-EU relations develop and expand new problems will continue to appear."
According to Chinese statistics, China-EU trade was valued at $217.3 billion (182.7 billion euros) in 2005, up by 22.6 percent over the previous year. Chinese imports rose by 5 percent and exports grew by 34 percent over 2004.
EU probe started last July
Price is a big argument for Europeans to buy shoes produced in Asia
In the latest dispute, Brussels opened the probe into shoes with leather uppers in July last year under pressure from European manufactures worried about a huge jump in Chinese and Vietnamese imports.
Imports of Chinese-made shoes with leather uppers jumped 320 percent from April 2004 to March 2005 while imports from Vietnam surged 700 percent.
European manufacturers said the surge was due to dumping -- selling a product for export at less than its normal value in order to grab market share by undercutting competitors unfairly or because of illegal state aid.
If the EU decided to go ahead with anti-dumping measures, they could be applied as soon as April 7 for six months and could afterwards become "definitive" for the next five years, EU officials said.
China's commerce ministry has yet to comment on the EU's shoe plans.