The European Union (EU)’s anti-dumping advisory committee did not agree on a proposal to extend anti-dumping duties on Vietnamese leather-capped shoes, with 15 countries voting against it.

Now, many footwear companies and industry experts are saying that Vietnamese leather shoes will likely enjoy a huge boost in sales next year.

Deputy Chairman of the Vietnam Leather and Footwear Association (Lefaso) Diep Thanh Kiet forecast that the footwear sector will see a growth of at least 15-20 percent in 2010, as long as there is a recovery in exports and the EC remove its proposal to extend anti-dumping duties.

Director Nguyen Duy Thuan of the HCM City-based Hiep An Footwear Joint Stock Company, which has exported its products to the EU market for many years, said he anticipates that orders for his company’s shoes will increase at least 30-40 percent as a result. Revenue from EU exports of the leather-capped shoes currently accounts for around 300,000 USD out of an annual total of 3.2 million USD, said Thuan. With the trade barrier lifted, this figure is expected to increase to 500,000 USD, at a minimum, next year, he added.

Director Truong Thuy Lien of the Lien Phat Shoes Ltd. Co. in the southern province of Binh Duong said that the number of her company’s orders will increase at least 10 percent from its current output of 1.8 million pairs of shoes a year.

But experts also warned that the nation’s footwear exports to the EU will face some stiff competition from Chinese products.

They suggested Vietnam ’s footwear companies carry out business plans to diversify both product-lines and export markets so as to limit any adverse impact on their business as well as their workers’ income.

Lefaso Deputy Chairman Kiet is in accord with this assessment, saying that footwear businesses should not focus on the EU market alone, but find a healthy balance between exports and domestic supply, to avoid being too vulnerable to fluctuations in any one given market.

According to the Ministry of Industry and Trade, Vietnam earned more than 3.2 billion USD from footwear exports in the first ten months of the year with 1.56 billion USD coming from exports to the EU market, of which leather-capped shoe exports accounted for 800 million USD.

Starting in October 2006, the European Commission imposed anti-dumping tariffs of 16.5 percent on Chinese and 10 percent on Vietnamese leather shoes. However, European commercial organizations as well as footwear makers and consumers have voiced strong opposition to the measure many times.

At a meeting of the EU’s anti-dumping advisory committee on Nov. 19, 15 of the 27 EU countries voted against renewing the anti-dumping duties for an additional 15 months./.