EU, China near textile row settlement

Brussels, August 28:

EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson said today he will present EU governments with proposals to unblock millions of dollars worth of Chinese textile imports held up at customs.

If his plans are accepted, the crisis over the backlog of Chinese bras, sweaters and other clothes could be over by mid-September, Mandelson told British Broadcasting Corp television. He said he will make the proposals to EU governments tomorrow. “I am making proposals to our member states to begin the proceedings to unblock all the goods which are currently held at customs,” Mandelson said, “I hope that member states will cooperate with me in doing that and they won’t prevent the speedy passage of those procedures. If they cooperate I believe that we will be able to unblock the all the goods currently held at customs by the middle of next month.”

He spoke in London as EU trade officials negotiated in Beijing to end the trade crisis. EU officials said they hoped those negotiations would end in an agreement today on how to unblock the exports which could then be quickly endorsed by the union’s 25 member nations. European retailers say their business is threatened by EU quotas introduced in June to halt a flood of cheap Chinese clothing imports. The temporary quotas were introduced in an agreement with China after complaints from European textile producers that their livelihoods were endangered by a surge in Chinese goods following the expiry of global textile trade limits in January.

Mandelson blamed EU governments for the crisis by continuing to issue import licenses for Chinese goods for weeks after his agreement in June to fix the quotas. He also said Chinese authorities “were a bit slow off the mark in introducing their own exports control system.” The result was that Chinese goods piled up at bonded warehouses on European borders leaving retailers warning of empty shelves this autumn and winter. Mandelson said governments should now act to get those clothes into stores. “In the implementation of this agreement there has been a glitch,” he said, “It is not the fault of importers, it is not the fault of retailers, I don’t believe they should be unfairly penalized.” Mandelson stressed that the EU’s quotas were introduced to protect textile importers from poor nations outside Europe from Chinese competition, as well as to shelter European producers. However, he insisted such protection could only be temporary. “The need is for everyone to adjust to the new market realities, adjust to the reality of China’s growth and make sure that we reform economically, invest and adapt so that we can take on the challenge of this competition,” he said, “The protectionist route is simply a cul-de-sac.”