The price of tableware is set to soar after the European Commission announced today that it is imposing punitive new taxes on Chinese ceramic exports.
The provisional anti-dumping duties come into effect from midnight tonight, and will add between 17.6 and 58.8% to the dockside price of ceramic tabletop items and ovenware arriving in the EU from China.
The extra duties will be imposed for six months, and a decision made by next May on whether to make them permanent.
The hike in taxes is the result of a nine-month investigation by the Commission into claims by a number of unnamed European manufacturers that Chinese producers are selling their products into the EU at artificially low prices.
The threat of higher taxes has met with fierce opposition from a majority of member states, including the UK, and by the Chinese producers themselves. And anger at the move has been exacerbated because the Commission has given importers just 24 hours’ notice of the bumped-up levies.
The investigation, as reported on HousewaresLive.net back in February when it was first announced, was the largest ever made into the way China’s ceramic tableware exporters operate. The European producers lodged the complaint over concerns that the volume and prices of the Chinese exports had adversely affected their own sales, prices and market share.
The EU market for ceramic tableware and kitchenware is worth 1.5bn Euros, half of which comes from China. And in volume terms, 80% of the EU’s imports of ceramic tableware come from that country.
Twelve Chinese manufacturers now face duties of between 17.6 and 31.2%. Another 400 will be subject to 26.6% duties and the rest, accounting for 40% of China’s exports of ceramic tableware to the EU, face a 58.8% hike.
In total, over 2,000 Chinese manufacturers of household ceramics are thought to be affected by the new taxes, and they now fear losing a significant share of the market as they will be forced to pass the extra cost onto their European customers. It is estimated that the duties will add 287m Euros to importers’ costs, which retailers in turn will have to pass on to customers.
The British Retail Consortium said today that the taxes were “utterly at odds with the principles of free trade and will lead to pointless price rises for hard-pressed customers”.
BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: “This is the wrong decision, badly handled. The principle here is that free trade is good for the customer.
“It’s disingenuous rubbish for the Commission to claim that these extra costs can be absorbed by retailers at a time when they’re discounting non-food goods in the face of weak consumer demand. Let’s be clear – 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.”
He said the higher costs of Chinese products would also do nothing to help European producers, who could not manufacture enough at sufficiently low prices.
“Our members tell us that the only alternative for them, if they’re forced to look elsewhere, will be to source from other low-cost Asian countries.”