This site has been archived on 02/02/2015

Navigation path

This website is no longer being updated.

Please visit the new Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs website.


External dimension of the footwear sector

Pair of shoes and globe © Nikita Shohov -

The European footwear industry is highly competitive, both on the European Union (EU)'s internal market, and on global markets mostly due to its quality, design and fashion attributes. However, the trade deficit in the footwear sector has more than doubled in five years to €7.0 billion (EU-27, 2007). Reasons contributing to the large trade deficit are the growing difficulty of EU industry to compete with countries with low labour costs and less regulation and the strength of the Euro.

The main suppliers of footwear to the EU are China and Vietnam, which together account for more than 60% of the footwear imports into the EU (in value). The main markets for EU footwear are USA, Russia and Switzerland.

Many potential export markets remain virtually closed. High tariffs and the continued prevalence of different non-tariff barriers (NTBs) in the footwear industry constitute a significant disincentive for SMEs to participate and benefit from international trade. Against this background, increased market access to emerging economies that have a growing middle class is of strategic importance, as these represent a quality-conscious market where the EU has the highest competitive advantage.

The main trade priorities for the footwear sector are as follows:

Improve market access for EU products notably by reducing tariff and non-tariff barriers

In view of the limited growth potential of the EU's internal market, and the fact that steadily growing low-priced imports are gaining an ever-increasing share of that market, open export markets are the only way of increasing EU production, or at least maintaining it at present levels.

The Doha Round of world trade negotiations was launched in Doha (Qatar) in November 2001 and aims to deepen further the openness of global trade. A successful and balanced outcome of the Doha Development Agenda remains, therefore, important for the sector as it is a tool for improved market access in markets that are currently closed or highly protected.

Based on market access analysis, as well as analysis of NTBs notified to the World Trade Organization (WTO) carried out by the Commission services, a number of main barriers have been identified which are of relevance for the multilateral negotiations on non-agricultural market access (NAMA). In particular, the EU has proposed harmonisation and more transparency on barriers such as labelling, certifications of conformity procedures, export restrictions and importers' registration.

In addition to the WTO's multilateral negotiations, market access potential can be improved by efforts to negotiate Free Trade Agreements with markets with high potential such as Korea, India and Mercosur.

You will find more information via the following links:

Respect of WTO rules and disciplines

The European Union monitors compliance by third countries with bilateral or multilateral obligations, and attempts to abolish barriers by means of available trade policy instruments (such as WTO litigation procedures resulting from the application of the Trade Barriers Regulation).

You will find more information via the following link:

Combating counterfeiting and piracy

Brand and product piracy is one of the biggest threats to EU industry. According to OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) estimations, fake products have a share of about 8% of global trade. Apart from legislative and political measures as well as awareness raising, the Commission's Customs Action Plan as well as bilateral Action programmes and Dialogues with non-EU countries help in this matter.

You will find more information via the following link:

Combating fraud

In recent years, the sector has been confronted with a wide variety of fraudulent activities by which economic operators have tried to:

  • circumvent commercial policy measures (such as anti-dumping measures);
  • unlawfully benefit from preferential tariff treatment (such as that granted in the framework of the Generalised System of Preferences, GSP);
  • mislead EU consumers (e.g. by claiming an EU origin of products that in reality have been produced elsewhere).

In order to combat such fraudulent activities, OLAF (Office européen de Lutte Anti Fraude) has been investigating alleged fraud cases for several years now. Moreover, the relevant services of the Directorate-General for Taxation and Customs Union (DG TAXUD) have taken various measures in order to ensure that footwear is classified in a uniform manner throughout the Community so as to avoid trade policy instruments being circumvented by "mis-classifying" footwear under types of products that are not covered by those instruments.

Share: FacebookGoogle+LinkedInsend this page to a friend

Set page to normal font sizeIncrease font size by 200 percentprint this page