BRUSSELS (AFP) – EU trade experts opened the way yesterday for anti-dumping measures against imports of Chinese-made shoes with leather uppers by rejecting market economy status for 13 Chinese manufacturers. «There was overwhelming support for the Commission’s proposal not to grant market economy status to the 13 Chinese companies,» said commission spokesman for trade issues Peter Power as the experts met in Brussels. «We will now proceed to the next phase in this investigation to establish whether dumping has occurred or not,» he added. He stressed that the «key question» was whether anti-dumping measures would be «in the interest of the European economy and the European interest.» Because the EU has not granted market economy status to China or Vietnam, it is approaching the issue on a company-by-company basis. The EU also refused market economy status for eight Vietnamese companies in December. Refusing market economy status would make it easier to prove dumping, according to a spokesman for the federation of the European sporting goods industry, which imports sports shoes from China and Vietnam. The possibility of anti-dumping measures, such as customs duties or minimum import prices, risks sparking a trade row with the growing Asian economic giant after an earlier dispute over Chinese textiles was solved with agreement last year. The case has been simmering since the Commission opened an anti-dumping probe on July 7, 2005, into Chinese and Vietnamese leather-upper and reinforced work shoes.