The European Union's tariffs on leather shoes imported from Vietnam and China will expire at the end of March, following a decision to do away with the duties.

Vietnam's trade mission in the EU, Belgium and Luxembourg quoted the European Commission spokesman John Clancy as saying: "Given that the European shoemakers' association has publicly stated that it has not applied for an extension of the duties on certain Chinese and Vietnamese shoes, it's therefore very clear to everyone that the current measures in place will expire on April 1."

Clancy's statement was considered by the European media as official EU confirmation that the dumping tax on Vietnamese and Chinese leather shoes will end as of the date.

The European Confederation of Footwear Industries, Europe 's largest shoemakers' association, said that it had dropped its call for an extension of the tariffs, seeking instead stricter monitoring of imports.

The EC first imposed a dumping tariff of 10 percent on Vietnamese and 16.5 percent on Chinese leather shoes in October 2006 after European shoemakers complained they were unable to compete against low-cost products from the two nations.

However, many trade organisations as well as retailers and consumers in Europe protested against these measures.

The tariffs have also split EU member states as many of them described these duties as "protecting" European shoemakers from foreign competition.

Statistics released by the Vietnamese Ministry of Industry and Trade indicate the EU is currently one of the country's largest footwear importers. In the first 11 months of 2010, Vietnam's footwear exports to the market reached 2 billion USD, a year-on-year rise of almost 16 percent./.