The European Commission on Thursday imposed provisional duties on ceramic tableware and kitchenware imported from China, despite opposition from a majority of EU member states. Fourteen of the EU’s 27 members voted against the planned measures at a meeting of trade specialists last month, a highly unusual move that left the commission having to rethink its plans. The commission can impose provisional duties while an investigation continues. Under EU rules, it only consults member states, but is not bound by their vote. However, it does need to follow the majority opinion of member states for definitive duties, which would need to be set for these products by May 15. These would normally be set for five years. The EU’s executive body went ahead with provisional duties ranging from 17.6 per cent to 58.8 per cent on Chinese manufacturers, according to the official journal of the European Union. Ceramic tableware and kitchenware imports from China totalled ¤728 million (HK$7.2 billion) last year, according to the commission, making it among the larger cases under consideration. The commission is investigating 44 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 commission launched its largest case to date in September into the alleged dumping of ¤21 billion of solar panels and components by Chinese producers. It added an inquiry into alleged subsidies last week. It also set provisional duties on Thursday of between 15.9 per cent and 67.8 per cent on iron tubes and pipe fittings from China and Thailand. EU imports from the two countries last year totalled ¤59 million. 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. But the commission disagreed, saying EU producers could also manufacture Chinese-style ceramics. 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.