By Daniel Hunter

An EU decision to keep import taxes on Chinese crockery and cookware will leave hard-pressed customers paying more without bringing any benefits to UK manufacturers, said the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

The European Commission imposed ‘anti-dumping' duties, on a provisional basis last November - despite fierce opposition from a majority of member states. On Thursday the Commission presented its proposal to extend these taxes until 2018.

The BRC has sought to persuade the Commission to scrap the duties but a majority of the EU's Anti-Dumping Committee voted today (Thursday) to accept the plans to extend them for another five years. Disappointingly the UK, which previously opposed the duties, decided on this occasion to abstain.

"These charges shouldn't have been imposed and they should not be kept. We argued against these pointless extra costs last November. They are still wrong," Helen Dickinson, Director General of the British Retail Consortium, said.

"This decision is contrary to the free trade principles the Commission says it supports and hard-pressed customers are paying in the form of higher shop prices. It's an avoidable inflationary pressure that is entirely unjustified. It will do nothing to support European producers who don't have the capacity to supply enough of these products for the value end of the market anyway.

"I'm pleased our efforts have helped persuade the Commission to reduce the rates of duty applied but the impact on shop prices will still be painful. There should be no duties at all."

The duties were the result of an investigation by the Commission into claims by the European ceramics industry that Chinese producers are selling into the EU at artificially low prices.

The new decision in this case will result in lower rates of duty (up to 36 per cent) than those applied so far (up to 58 per cent).

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

It is estimated that the duties add 200 million euros per year to importers' costs — a large sum which retailers will have to pass on to customers. And this is just the latest ‘anti-dumping' duty to be imposed by the Commission. Other targets have included ironing boards, bicycles and candles. The BRC has consistently argued against unjustified duties on consumer goods.

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