Saturday, September 23, 2006

UK, Italy deal with tariffs on cheap Chinese imports

Source Article: UK in secret deal with Italy on China trade -

In response to Rome’s demand for increased tariffs on imported Chinese goods (including furniture, shoes, and ceramics), Britain has offered its support of such tariffs in return for Rome’s support of the UK’s “long-hours work culture”. This deal has worried many retailers in the European Union, who believe it could later force Britain into further support of Italy in its dispute with China and the latter’s trade policy.

However, Britain is most likely concerned with the possibility that EU member states could “axe its ‘opt-out’” from the EU’s policy on a maximum 48-hour working week when the issue is debated later this year. Britain’s current line-up of supporters for its flexible labor market is enough to sustain it, but the group, including the recently troubled Polish coalition party, is unstable.

Opponents to Britain’s labor policy believe it exploits workers and allows Britain an unfair advantage over those EU countries where the 48-hour limit applies. Meanwhile, Italian officials seek support from southern European countries for its tariff plan that would allow it to pursue its objectives without Britain’s support. The EU trade commisioner has proposed a plan to implement five-year duties of 16.5% for leather shoes from China and 10% from Vietnam; currently, 12 countries are in favor of this plan, with 13 opposed.

Critics have said such “desperate horse-trading” on the part of Britain undermine the EU’s international image, and that a decision regarding trade policy should instead be decided on its merits.


- is the UK’s “free labor” market more practical than the EU’s 48-hour limit in an ever-changing global economy?

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