The European Union has launched a review of the current anti-dumping duties on leather shoes from China and Vietnam.
The European Commission said in a statement on Thursday that it was obliged to open the review, which would have the practical effect of extending the duties while the review is processed.
A split EU decided two years ago to levy anti-dumping duties up to 16.5 percent on imports of Chinese shoes as from Oct. 7, 2006. The original measures should last two years and expire soon, but the review would decide whether to extend them.
Some European shoe makers had pressed the European Commission to start the review in order to prevent the more competitive Chinese shoes from entering the European market in a longer time.
But other European footwear companies that outsource manufacturing to China and retailers called for the measures to be dropped since the duties were actually hurting Europe itself and forced consumers to pay higher prices.
The European Commission acknowledged that it made the decision in spite of obvious opposition from EU governments. In a recent non-binding poll of 27 EU member states, 15 voted to end the measures with 12 in favor of retaining them.
The EU's executive arm said it would "work to complete the investigation as expeditiously as possible."
The review usually lasts 12 to 15 months.