Britain has confidentially offered to back Italy's call for tariffs on low-cost shoes made in China in exchange for support in preserving its right to opt out of an EU-mandated 48-hour working week, the Financial Times reported. Retailers fear that the deal could force Britain to throw its weight behind future Italian moves for trade action against China over goods including furniture and ceramics. However, a deal has yet to be reached between the two countries. Italy is refusing to give any written assurances on working hours while Rome officials try to assemble an EU majority in favor of tariffs without resorting to horse trading with Britain. EU member nations are deadlocked over a proposal made by trade commissioner Peter Mandelson to impose five-year duties on leather shoes from China and Vietnam of 16.5% and 10% respectively. Twelve governments currently favor the proposal while 13 are against it.
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