EU should put itself in consumers' shoes The recent fact-finding tour
to China by trade officials from the European Union (EU) marks a necessary but
overdue step towards settling the anti-dumping dispute over Chinese shoe
Updated: 2006-03-16 13:38
It is overdue because too little time is left for the truth to
prevail, as the EU is set to impose an unfair punitive tariff on some Chinese
It is needed because this is the largest anti-dumping case the EU
has launched against China, involving shoes worth more than 300 million euros
(US$390 million) and millions of Chinese workers. Also, the move sets a
precedent that both sides can use to properly deal with trade disputes in the
By talking for the first time face-to-face with local shoe-makers
in Zhejiang Province in East China, the EU trade officials are expected to gain
a sense of reality about the latest Sino-EU trade conflict.
believing. The visit to Zhejiang, one of the richest provinces in China, which
has largely based its success on a thriving private sector, can help clear
misunderstandings about the practices of Chinese shoemakers.
enterprises are no longer State firms that run on government subsidies and
planning. In the shoemaking industry, an overwhelming majority of players, if
not all, are private companies or joint ventures. They have to fight hard with
each other for survival.
The short trip must have deepened the EU trade
officials' comprehension of Chinese officials' commitment to free trade, as well
as the source of Chinese enterprises' competitive edge.
However, if that
is not enough, the rising consumerism that the World Consumers' Rights Day
highlighted in the country might be worthy of their attention.
Not that China
is already a consumers' paradise. Protection of consumers' rights is far from
perfect in the home market.
Yet, surging public complaints and intense
media coverage in run-up to consumers' day explicitly showed that Chinese
consumers have become much more demanding as their choice increases and
From State-owned telecom giants that abuse their monopolies
to overcharge mobile phone users to private producers of low-quality or unsafe
food, businesses that profit at the cost of consumer rights have all come under
Chinese consumers have increasingly taken for granted
their right to demand better and cheaper goods and service. And since the
country has decided to base more of its economic growth on domestic consumption,
the understanding that what is good for consumers will be good for the economy
will take a deep root in the country.
Chinese shoemakers have to face
ferocious domestic competition.
Hence, it is unwise to deny market
economy status for Chinese shoemakers by written criteria and not
Local industries' calls for protection rumble on in some EU
member countries. To prevent the situation from escalating into full-blown
protectionism, EU trade officials must keep an eye on the interests of both
industries and consumers.
Satisfying the needs of a specific industry at
the sacrifice of the public, not to mention the interest of related industries,
is not the correct response to the challenge of globalization.