The move arrives just in time for Christmas, piling more pressure on UK inflation. Brussels clearly resents cheap Chinese competition, and has acted fast.
There was no warning for UK retailers. The boss of the British Retail Consortium (BRC) Stephen Robertson, quickly condemned the move. "New EU taxes on Chinese crockery and cookware are utterly at odds with the principles of free trade and will lead to pointless price rises for hard-pressed customers."
The tax will likely hit harder-up families more than affluent ones, as most Chinese ceramic imports are targeted at the bottom and mid-range markets. The BRC reckons the new taxes will add €287m euros to importers' costs - a sum retailers will have to pass on to customers already struggling with the new 20% VAT hike.
Opposition ignored"Making hard-pressed customers pay more will do nothing to support European producers who don't have the capacity to produce enough at low enough prices," adds Robinson. "Our members tell us that the only alternative for them, if they're forced to look elsewhere, will be to source from other low-cost Asian countries."
"There is a trade-off between unfair competition form China and artificially cheap products," an EU spokesperson said. "We could be taken to the World Trade Organisation if we didn't act."
Unilateral moveBrussels, then, can act unilaterally, even if a majority of member states oppose the move. It is also taking tax action on cheap Chinese-made bicycles and ironing boards.
Twelve individual Chinese ceramics manufacturers now face duties of between 17.6% and 31.2%. Another 400 manufacturers - though supported by low wages and manufacturing costs - will face 26.6% duties while all remaining Chinese producers will have to absorb a 58.8% duty.