China reaches EU garment import quota

Brussels, August 10:

In years gone by the European Union’s (EU) geography was said to include wine lakes and fridge mountains.

Now, the metaphorical map could be redrawn to include trouser towers and pullover pistes. The sartorial structures would be created by the millions of Chinese-made clothes shipped to the EU, over and above what is allowed.

The European commission said yesterday that China had reached its quota for imports but there were no clear provisions about how to deal with orders that were already en route to Europe.

With the clothes set to pile up in EU ports over the next few weeks, commission officials are due to meet their counterparts from Beijing to decide whether the shipments can be sent on to retailers or held over so they could be included in next year’s quota.

The problem comes less than two months after the EU trade commissioner, Peter Mandelson, negotiated a special import agreement in Shanghai to ensure Europe would not be flooded by cheap Chinese clothing and textiles.

The agreement said that in 10 categories, including trousers and pullovers, imports could rise annually by between eight per cent and 12.5 per cent. That limited Chinese exports of men’s trousers to 316.4 million pairs and 181.5 million pullovers this year.

Officials say that since Mandelson clinched the deal, retailers rushed in last-minute orders to China to fill their stores with cheap garments. In a statement, Mandelson said, “The problem has been caused by importers trying to beat the restrictions. Chinese and EU traders launched massive shipments of pullovers and trousers to get these goods into Europe under the wire.”

China is the world’s biggest clothing exporter, shipping about Euro 83 billion of textiles and clothes worldwide last year, according to the China National Textile and Apparel Council.

China exported Euro 16 billion worth of textiles and clothing to the EU last year.