EU Commission proposes import duties on Chinese ceramics
* Commission proposes import duties of 13.1-36.1 pct
* Provisional duties in place of 17.6-58.8 pct
* EU member states to decide on imposing five-year duties
* Final duties would have to be imposed by May 15
By Philip Blenkinsop
BRUSSELS, Feb 27 (Reuters) - The European Commission is proposing long-term import duties on ceramic plates and other tableware and kitchenware from China even though a majority of EU member states opposed their imposition late last year.
The EU's executive body is recommending definitive duties of between 13.1 and 36.1 percent, a lower rate than the provisional duties set in November.
Member states have to vote on the measures, which would normally last for five years, and must do so by May 15.
The Commission is investigating 32 dumping and subsidies cases, 21 of them involving China. The European Union is China's biggest trading partner while for the EU, China is second only to the United States.
The Commision went ahead with provisional duties ranging from 17.6 to 58.8 percent on Chinese manufacturers in November after a non-binding vote by member states. Fourteen of the EU's 27 members voted against the Commission's proposal.
Ceramic tableware and kitchenware imports from China totalled 728 million euros ($951.7 million) in 2011, according to the Commission, making it among the larger cases under consideration.
The Commission launched its largest case to date in September into the alleged dumping of 21 billion euros of solar panels and components by Chinese producers. It has added an inquiry into alleged subsidies.
Although historically, European china was a cheaply priced alternative to the genuine Asian product, the Commission said that in the modern era imports were crowding out domestic sales.
Some Chinese manufacturers argued that Chinese-looking items should be excluded from duties, saying that producers had always exported them to Europe and that they had special uses.
European importers say the duties would harm consumers and traders and argue that European producers cannot meet local demand, meaning imports would be sought from other countries, such as Bangladesh and Vietnam.
The Commission said it was unlikely the duties would be fully passed on to consumers and that, assuming imports and prices were stable, the duties would mean an annual cost per EU household of less than 1 euro.
In 2006, in a dumping case concerning shoes from China and Vietnam, the Commission settled for duties for two years, rather than the normal five, in the face of initial opposition from some member states. ($1 = 0.7856 euros) (Reporting By Philip Blenkinsop, editing by Robert-Jan Bartunek and Alistair Lyon)
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