The EU “condemns” Timberland, Puma and Clarks: in China and Vietnam they were guilty of dumping, so the duty (65 million) must be paid

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On 28 September it was time to call it quits: the legal dispute in question had been in progress for many years between Timberland, Puma and Clarks on one side and their Chinese and Vietnamese suppliers on the other, with the EC institutions as a common target in the centre. The European Commission published the implementing regulation that fully reinstates the anti-dumping duties on footwear imported from the Far East imposed between 2006 and 2011 for the period during which they were applicable. The three designer brands are therefore no longer entitled to claim back the figure of approximately 65 million euro paid to customs, in relation to which a previous ruling had instead acknowledged the possibility that they might obtain a refund. The dispute between the companies in the fashion sector and the EU concerned the anti-dumping duties that Brussels had imposed on imports of shoes from China (16.5%) and Vietnam (10%) in 2006, under pressure from the European trade associations. The first to weaken the legal shield protecting the European productions had been the Asian suppliers, who appealed immediately, closely followed by the brands who then, in a haze of lawyers and official appeals, obtained the partial abolition of the anti-dumping ruling and the right to have their position reconsidered. The objective of Timberland, Puma and Clarks was to show that their Asian suppliers worked under free market conditions, in the hope that they might be assigned a lower duty than that which they had paid, and therefore be entitled to a (generous) refund. The response of the EC court, at the end of the proceedings was: “My dears, no, those duties were definitely to be paid in full”. The paradox is that, while the anti-dumping measures, which were first renewed in 2009, expired in 2011, the court case has gone on for another 5 years. And besides, the EC publication of the decision on 28 September drove some of the press to misunderstand the implementing regulation and think that the anti-dumping duties on footwear had been reinstated with effect from today for a period of 15 months. Instead this is not the case: the regulation is only valid for the past, while today only the duties on sales remain in force.

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