Possible changes are on the way for import tariffs, currently imposed on Chinese tiles imported into Europe.
Anti-dumping tariffs have been in place since September 2011, when the current measures were put in place. Their intention has been to protect EU ceramic tile manufacturers from the possibly destabilising effects of large quantities of heavily-subsidised Chinese tiles being imported.
The import duties which have been levied vary between 30.6% and 69.7%, depending on whether the companies involved cooperated with the initial investigations or not. The majority of companies did.
There were no tariffs imposed on the import of natural or agglomerated stone tile products.
Two things happened last year which have changed the situation. Firstly the initial round of tariffs was only due to last five years and therefore expired in September 2016. It is likely that they will be renewed and their level for the coming five years is currently being reviewed. Changes to the methodology of their calculation is under discussion within the EU.
The second factor is of course that the UK is embarking on a process of leaving the EU, and will therefore have an option of whether to follow the EU tariff, when agreed, or to set its own in individual discussions with China. So the industry needs good transitional arrangements in place during the process of exiting the EU.
Much of the recent discussion on this issue in the UK has been focussed on the wider ceramics market, the requirements of which are not necessarily the same as those of the tiling sector, due to the wider prevalence of UK ceramics manufacturers in the sanitaryware and tableware sectors. Currently there are only two significant manufacturers of ceramic wall tiles in the UK and no manufacturers of ceramic floor tiles. Therefore, to agglomerate employment figures in the ceramic tile manufacturing sector with those in the general ceramics sector is to overstate the importance of tile manufacturing for the UK tiling sector.
The TTA is keen to canvass the views of the tiling sector specifically, which is why it is contacting the industry about this issue now.